Merlion by La Sirena | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
Binder: Brazilian Sumatra
Filler: Dominican Corojo, Dominican Criollo ‘98, Nicaraguan Ligero, Brazilian Mata Fina
Size: 5.5 x 54 “Toro”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $9.00
Today we take a look at the Merlion by La Sirena.

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From the La Sirena Cigars web site:

“La Sirena Cigars is fully owned and operated by Arielle Ditkowich as of January 1, 2014. Below is the full brand history:
“The La Sirena Story began in 2006 in New York City when Nestor Miranda met Arielle Ditkowich at an event. He was immediately taken by her love of tobacco, desire to learn more and the way she connected with people. Over the course of time he took her under his wing and they both learned from each other about the changing cigar market as well as the cigars that people demanded.

“In early 2008, the two decided to produce a cigar that would fit the profile of what today’s cigar aficionado wanted. At a roundtable discussion names were being discussed, when Arielle asked, “What is the Spanish word for Mermaid”. The answer was, “La Sirena”.

“With the name in place and a desire to create a full bodied cigar, the team set off for Esteli, Nicaragua where they began working with the Garcia family at My Father Cigars. Over the course of the next few months countless blends were smoked and finally the blend that fit the profile that La Sirena was seeking was found.

“In 2009, La Sirena was officially released and today it continues to be requested at many tobacconists nationwide. The brand followed up with its second release in 2012, Merlion, created by La Aurora in the Dominican Republic with the medium bodied, full flavored smoker in mind.

“After a successful 3-year partnership, Ditkowich was ready to spread her La Sirena wings and became an independent company. Ditkowich purchased the distribution rights from Miami Cigar & Co. and continues to manage the brand. La Sirena brand cigars are distributed nationwide and available at over 300 retail stores. International distribution is growing quickly as we continue to push through 2014.”

The cigars are produced at the La Aurora Factory in the DR.
Cigar Aficionado rated them a 90.

I want to thank a dear friend, and reader, Eric Anderson, for the gift of these cigars.

The Merlion by La Sirena is a nicely constructed stick. Seams are visible but tight. Lots of big veins but not so many small ones. The triple cap is pretty sloppy. And the medium brown wrapper has an oily sheen while feeling toothy.

I clip the cap and find aromas of spice, dark baker’s powdered cocoa, a bit of toastiness, sweetness on the shaft, wood, and floral notes at the freshly cut cap.
Time to light up.

The draw is good. And a big powerhouse of spice puts on its boxing gloves. Creaminess follows immediately. A good combo. A generic sweetness enters.
The stick attains a nice woodiness.

Some lavender notes appear. The tobacco is rich and earthy. The sweetness tends to be leaning towards brown sugar. A caramelized brown sugar. Intensely sweet.

The strength is a medium+ body.
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I’ve got to admit some stupidity here. I’m a fan of the La Sirena by My Father Cigars. But I missed the memo on Miami & Co. taking over this version. La Aurora is capable of wonderful things while at the same time turning out some real drek.

This stick, the Merlion by La Sirena, is a fine achievement for them. I had never heard of Arielle Ditkowich. This is what happens when you don’t work every day in the cigar industry and use reviewing cigars as a stress reliever. But the story is an interesting one how this stick came about.

While typing, the burn line makes a run for the border. I catch it and rectify it. Would have canoed on me had I not taken immediate action.

Lovely. I get some lemony citrus on the palate. Now there is both intense sweetness and tartness.
The spiciness has not let its guard down this entire time.

Oh God. The cable classic rock station is playing The Eagles. Yuck. Makes me think of “The Big Lebowski” every time I hear that band. Decades and decades ago, I auditioned for a lounge act piano player. Half of his repertoire was The Eagles. I had no heads up when I showed up. After 30 minutes, I had to excuse myself and wished him good luck.

The Merlion by La Sirena is a perfectly lovely cigar with a nice flavor profile. It is packed tight but not too tight. It smokes slowly.
All this time, about 20 minutes, and I’ve burned an inch.

The stick digs in and finds its complexity. Nice balance. Long finish.
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Eric told me that he got these cigars from a friend who had these in his humidor for a year. But totally encased, tightly, in their cellos. He also gave me some Esteban Carreras 187 which are not quite ready to smoke yet. He also gifted me with some Ortega Serie D Naturals. One of my all-time favorite blenders. Eddie has been very nice to me. One of the most down to earth fellas I know. He doesn’t flaunt his success or power as a manufacturer like so many others do. He gave me first shot of the pre-release review of the Serie D Black. Now that was a helluva cigar. Jesus Alou!
The sweetness fractures out with more elements. Some caramel is apparent. The citrus changes from a very tart lemony component to a sweeter orange citrus.
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The second third begins.

The char line is behaving itself. The strength is medium/full.

The Merlion by La Sirena is very toasty and nutty. But the creaminess just oozes. The spiciness hangs tough. I love that.

Just to show you that not everyone in the cigar industry hates me, I got this email from Joel Rogers of Crux Cigars yesterday:
“Phillip,
I sure do appreciate the great reviews you’ve given Crux so far. Love your review style too!
We are waiting for a large shipment from Nicaragua in a few weeks. I’ll be in touch when that comes to get you set up with samples.
Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Joel Rogers
Co-founder and Vice President – Crux Cigar Company”

Thank you Joel.
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The Merlion by La Sirena becomes very chocolate heavy. More like hot fudge than baking powder. The creaminess keeps up so I grab a Diet Coke for that Egg Cream experience. You should try if you have not already done so. It only works on the heavy chocolate and creamy flavors. You have instant chocolate soda with each sip.

I remove the cigar band and lo and behold, it is a double band. I had no inkling. The cover band is huge like a billboard. The band underneath is just a smaller version. But without the depiction of the “Merlion.”

I reach the halfway point.

The complexity is impressive. While the flavors are great, it is not a flavor bomb. I think a year of humidor aging may have stolen some of that potential.
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The price point. The Merlion by La Sirena is certainly an impressive blend. But as most My Father blends (that’s how it started), they ain’t cheap. The Merlion by La Sirena has several things going for it. The first being good construction. The second is a terrific start that escalates as the cigar burns. The third is a multitude of flavors. Although to be quite honest, they are your stereotypical Nic flavors. Even though this is anything but a Nic puro, it possesses the flavor profile of one. And lastly, the smoke is long and luxurious. So yes, this is a good $9.00 cigar.

I check Cbid and they have the original La Sirena by Pepin Garcia and made by Miami Cigar & Co. But not the Merlion version.

Merlion by La Sirena has 6 blends: La Sirena Original, Merlion by La Sirena, Oceano by La Sirena, Jaxx by La Sirena, Jaxx LT by La Sirena, and Stixx by La Sirena.
I need to hunt down these blends.

The Merlion by La Sirena comes in four sizes. One is a limited run. It is the Sea Lion and it is a perfecto that is 5.5 x 47. The others are the Robusto 5 x 50, the Toro 5.5 x 54, and the Gran Toro 6 x 58. The prices range from $8-$9 by the box and 5 pack. With the Gran Toro being $10 in a 5 pack.

CI carries them but I’ve never seen them on Cbid.

The last third begins. I’ve now got an hour and 15 minutes invested.

The floral notes that once was just lavender now blossoms into a generic floral component. You can even smell the flowers as you smoke.
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I tried my first one last night. To make sure it was ready. I smoked an inch, put it down in the ashtray and went upstairs for a moment. Getting up out of my overstuffed chair, I knocked the cigar on to the floor in front of the chair. The man cave is on the dark side.

When I returned, I couldn’t find the cigar. I stood up and smashed it to smithereens with my Hobbit foot. But I still have three left to entertain me. I hate when I do that. I need to get more light into that damn man cave.

The last third’s flavor profile gives the Merlion by La Sirena the bona fide status of flavor bomb.

This is such a good tasting cigar.

The strength moves to full body.
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I’m now at over 90 minutes of smoke time. Whether it is the humidor time or just how the cigar was blended, the size is perfect. If you have some of these sticks, please send me some in the other sizes. Oops. My code. (See the “Katman’s Manifesto”)

I’m days away from purchasing my new bass and the bucks I have to put into it totally wipes out my cigar budget for March. There are no authorized ESP guitar sellers anywhere close to Milwaukee. The closest is the middle of Illinois. So I am buying it on Amazon. I emailed the ESP folks and told me that I should probably take the bass to a luthier to set up the bass after I get it. Sort of tweak it to its finest playing ability. My fingers are crossed it’s good to go out of the box.

The construction has been perfect. The flavor profile is wonderful. No harshness or nicotine. And cool as a cuke.

Odds are you’ve already smoked one. But if you haven’t, this is a must.
10

And now for something completely different:

I made contact again with The Police drummer Stewart Copeland a couple years after the Santa Barbara experience (Read it in the Crux Bull & Bear review).
stewart-copeland-10

It was the Hollywood party to celebrate the album “Zenyatta Mondata” going platinum.

I tried to get a hold of Stew and his brother Miles but they didn’t take my calls. This was the tip off but I ignored it.

I had a couple good buddies that were big time L.A. radio disk jockeys. To be honest, they were more my friends because I had to use coke to grease the wheels to get my Eddie Munster single played. But they did their best to appear sincere.

Anyway, Bill asked if I wanted to go the party that I couldn’t get in to. He had a pair of tickets and I gladly went.

There must have been 700 people at this party right on the Sunset Strip. I finally found Stew and asked him to come with me and let’s kibitz. He looked like a wild man and said he would be right back.

What I didn’t know at that particular moment was that he was nearly overdosing on cocaine. He had those weird sensations of you must keep moving. One cannot even carry on a conversation whey you are that high. I kept seeing him as he ran through the party continuously like a video game. He kept blowing me off. I got pissed. Bill told me to calm down.

I found Sting who was wandering around the party. He had some force field around him because no one dared to approach him I did.
I re-introduced myself and he remembered me. He was kind and generous and we spoke for a few minutes.
sting

Then I found Andy Summers and he remembered me too. Curved Air was a big deal. These guys grew up with the band. He and I talked for a good 20 minutes and found ourselves laughing our asses off. Andy was the most down to earth fella of the band. I gave him a single of “Hound Dog” and he took it. A couple months later, I got a letter from Andy telling me how much he enjoyed talking with me and saying how much he enjoyed the song.
adny

After a couple hours of feeding our faces and drinking for free, I sought out Stew to say good-bye.

He stood still long enough for me to tell him that my record of “Hound Dog” had hit the Top 40.

“Well let me be the first to congratulate you!”
I told him thanks but he was just about the last person to congratulate me. See ya chump.”

On the way out, I ran into Miles Copeland. I stopped and he was all smiles. I let him have it with the whole time me poking my index finger in his chest.
miles

Bill had to pull me off of him.

I left that party fuming.

Hollywood types. All a bunch of phonies. I shared a cheap, tiny flat with Stew in Curved Air and we ate together almost every night. Just him and me. I was the bassist and he was the drummer. We were best friends for over two years.

I was mortified that he outgrew me. How can you treat someone that was at one time so close?

When “Hound Dog” hit the Top 10, I called Stew after he was back in London to tell him. It was the middle of the night for him and I woke him. He mumbled congrats and some other unintelligible things and I said good-bye.

He changed his phone number after that.

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