Last year, the partnership between La Aurora and La Sirena materialized in the form of the Merlion. When the cigar was released at the 2012 IPCPR trade show there were three sizes offered, but over the course of the last year a fourth size has made appearances in the hand of the brand’s co-owner and face, Arielle Ditkowich, as well as it select events where it has been handed out.

We broke the details last week:

This July, Arielle Ditkowich’s personal cigar will be sold in limited quantities for the first time. Miami Cigar & Co. confirmed to halfwheel that the Merlion Sea Lion, a 5 1/2 x 47 Figurado, will be offered to retailers at the annual IPCPR trade show and convention in Las Vegas, Nev.

While no pricing has been set, the Sea Lion will be limited to 5,000 10-count boxes with nine of the cigars featuring the regular Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper used on the standard Merlion blend and one cigar featuring a Mexican San Andrés wrapper. It is the fourth vitola for the line and the only non-Parejo Merlion.

“The Sea Lion was originally made for me to smoke at events, and there was a lot of interest in them,” said Ditkowich. ”Miami Cigar & Company and I decided that we would release a limited amount of boxes this year at the trade show.”

To date, less than 200 Sea Lions have been handed out at events around the country. The cigar that is sold to retailers will differ slightly as Miami Cigar & Co. confirmed it will have an unfinished foot, whereas the cigars Miss Ditkowich has been smoking for the last year have had traditional feet.

This means the Merlion line-up now looks like:

  • La Sirena Merlion Robusto (5 x 50)
  • La Sirena Merlion Toro (5 1/2 x 54)
  • La Sirena Merlion Gran Toro (6 x 58)
  • La Sirena Merlion Sea Lion (5 1/2 x 47)

 The boxes of Merlion, featuring nine Ecuadorian Corojo-wrapped cigars and one Mexican San Andrés-wrapped cigar, looks like this:

Merlion Sea Lion.jpg

(Prototype box picture via Miami Cigar & Co.)

Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: E. León Jimenes Tabacalera
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
  • Binder: Brazilian Sumatra
  • Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 47
  • Vitola: Figurado
  • MSRP: n/a
  • Release Date: July 2013*
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2

 *The ones used for this review, while the same blend, feature a different foot.

The Sea Lion is a unique looking vitola, a sort of Double Perfecto with the cap end noticeably more pointed than the foot. The wrapper is a dark honey brown color and almost totally smooth to the touch with an aroma of cedar and hay. There is the perfect amount of resistance when squeezed, not too hard and not too soft.

It starts off with notes of cedar, leather, earth and nuts. There is a faint sweetness in the background that is indeterminate at the moment, but seems to be getting stronger, albeit slowly. The draw is ideal and the burn is a little wavy and smoke production is impressive for such a small vitola. There is a nice pepper on the retrohalebut it is by no means overwhelming at this point—and the strength ends the first third at a mild medium.

Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion 2

Coming into the second third of the Merlion, the profile gets quite a bit more complex. Not only is there more pepper on the retrohale—but the sweetness from the first third has exploded—reminding me strongly of maple syrup. The combination of the two is excellent. There are other flavors, notably: wood, earth, chocolate and leather. The smoke production remains above average, while the burn and draw are excellent. Overall strength has barely hit the medium mark, but I could see it increasing more by the end.

Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion 3

The final third of the Sea Lion continues the trend of the second third with that maple syrup sweetness still dominant, albeit not as strong as at the halfway point. Other flavors of dark chocolate, nuts, leather, nutmeg and hay flow in and out until the end of the smoke. The pepper on the retrohale starts to diminish starting around the start of the final third, and disappears into almost nothing by the time the smoke ends. While the draw remains great and the burn is fine, the big standout is that the strength. It’s increased noticeably ending the Merlion much closer to the full mark than I would have imagined given the first two thirds.

Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion 4

Final Notes:

  • According to Wikipedia, a Merlion is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore. Its name combines “mer” meaning the sea and “lion”. 
  • While each of the vitolas of the La Sirena brand have nautical names, the Sea Lion is the only vitola in the Merlion lineup that has a name so far.
  • While not as big as the La Sirena band, the Merlion band does not really fit the Sea Lion because of the small size and shape of the vitola.
  • Having said that, I love the color scheme of the Merlion band, as it really fits the marketing that is being used with it.
  • You can see an interview that Stogie Review did with Ditkowich at the 2012 IPCPR show where she shows off this cigar here.
  • I have smoked each of the three regular production Merlion vitolas on the market and the Sea Lion is by far the best in my opinion. Not only is the size just cooler looking, but it is quite a bit more complex, especially in the second third.
  • I did not cut very far into the cap to get started, as it is just not needed to get a great draw.
  • I can not say enough about the burn, draw and overall construction. In fact, I smoked each sample down to less than a 1/4 inch left, and they never got close to getting hot or bitter.
  • Along with the above, the Sea Lions did not burn hot at all, despite the small size.
  • I reviewed the La Sirena A here.
  • Take your time with this cigar, if you smoke too quickly, it punishes you severely.
  • The finish was excellent on both samples, nutty and sweet.
  • The final smoking time for both samples averaged just over one hour, but I was taking my time.
  • Due to the look and size of the cigar, it almost feels like I am smoking a blunt by the end of the cigar, not that I would have intimate knowledge of that subject.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar has Merlions in stock at the moment, but no Sea Lions.
90 Overall Score

While the Sea Lion takes a few minutes to get started, once it does, it gets very, very good. This cigar had an impressive number of different flavors, all distinct and complex, but I can't help but think that the vitola actually worked against the overall profile at times. The middle third is by far the best—and the two ends—which are noticeably smaller ring gauges just don't have the same complexity. If the flavors had remained the same throughout the entire cigar—this would have received an even higher score—but honestly, it is good enough to track down just to experience the middle of the cigar.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.