I picked up the La Sirena Merlion strictly for the band. I had walked by all of the La Sirena sticks several times over the course of a few trips to my local B&M and finally picked up the Merlion because I couldn’t pass up the bands anymore. I mean, come on, it’s a freaking merlion! I had no idea that was a real thing until I came home, googled it, and came to this page on wikipedia:
The Merlion (Malay: Singa-Laut) 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”. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means “sea town” in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name — Singapura — meaning “lion city” or “kota singa”.
It goes on to say the Singapore Tourism Board controls all usage of the Merlion as a logo. I wonder if these are for sale in Singapore…
Finding out they have five “authorized” statues of the Merlion in Singapore makes me want to bring a 5-pack of these guys to Singapore and smoke one in front of each statue — providing I like this first one.
This is a nice looking cigar — from what of it you can see. Most of it is covered with the wild band, which I really like. It’s flashy, with a lot of silver, and is hard to miss. In a sea of cigars inside my coolerador, this one will always stand out. The seams are very clean, no gaps, and there’s only one faint ridge running towards the top above the band. There’s a slight soft spot right around that ridge, but otherwise the feel is consistent throughout. The only other slight criticism I would have is the cap is a bit sloppy and off-center.
The cold draw has a sweet, toffee taste to it. A little earthy too. Not too bad, but nothing exciting. The draw is a little tight, but from the foot it looks to be very tightly packed and will likely loosen up once lit.
- Cigar Brand: La Sirena
- Cigar Name: Merlion
- Factory: La Aurora in the Dominican Republic
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
- Binder: Brazilian Sumatra
- Filler: Dominican Corojo, Dominican Criollo 98′, Nicaraguan ligero, and Brazilian Mata Fina/Bahia (see below)
- Vitola: Robusto
- Length: 5″
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Cost: $9.20
- Where purchased: Cigar Alley in Merchantville, NJ
- Strength: Medium-Full (getting closer to full strength towards the end)
- Smoked: 2014-05-07
- Where: Back yard
- When: ~1pm
- Occasion: Took a day off work to unpack after moving
- Meal: n/a
- Where: n/a
- Drink Pairing: Dunkin Donuts mocha thing
- Link: The Official Merlion Site
In the stats above I list one of the fillers as “Mata Fina/Bahia”. That’s because depending on where you look you’ll see two different answers, and unfortunately the official site linked above just says “Brazilian” without any further clarification. So I did a little digging. First, from Cigar Inspector here…
The Mata Fina wrapper, named after where it is grown, is a reference to one of the four major growing zones in Brazil. Mata Fina is the region most prized for its wrapper leaf. It is almost always sun-grown. The Mata Fina wrapper, in general, has a unique earthy aroma and natural sweetness, different from the typical Maduro flavor profile, which makes sense as this is not actually from the Broadleaf variety (it’s from the Bahia).
Finally, Benjamin Menendez agreed to visit Brazil. “I decided that since Bahia was the heart of the premier tobacco of Brazil, it would be a good place to go,” says Menendez. Amerino Portugal took him through the palm trees and mangoes and the tropical trees known as red flamboyance to São Gonçalo dos Campos, about an hour and a half inland from the city of Salvador in Bahia, straight into the heart of the tobacco fields where the best Mata Fina in Brazil is grown.
Finally, from Cigar Journal…
Markus Dietrich is Managing Director and Brazilian Country Manager of Fumex-Tabacalera Ltda., the Brazilian branch of the CdF International Group, which specializes in dark-fired tobaccos mainly for cigars worldwide. “The growing regions in Bahia are divided into the Mata Fina (the largest area), Mata Norte and Mata Sul”, explains Dietrich.
So from reading those three, I now know that Mata Fina is a region in Bahia, which is one of Brazil’s 26 states. If any of that interests you, I strongly suggest reading the entire Cigar Journal article as it gets into details on characteristics of Mata Fina as well as how those leaves are handled.
Ok, enough teaching, lets get smoking…
The first thing I notice is, strangely, visual. The smoke is uncommonly yellow. It has the color of aged cellophane. The first half inch honestly provides very little taste, only a slight citric bitterness. It’s gone quickly though, and I’m left with a VERY subtle cocoa sweetness. The level of subtlety varies throughout the first third, with the sweetness becoming quite noticeable at times — which I really enjoyed. The retro is smooth, only a slight burn, and also on the cocoa side of flavors. The smoke has lost the hue of an instagram filter and has become a more normal grey-white. In fact, I think it was around the time that the smoke changed where I started picking up on flavors.
The burn was all over the place through the first third. It started off pretty bad and lopsided, but eventually fixed itself by the end of the first third. Moving in to the second third I need to take off what I find is the first band, as it’s starting to brown on the edge from being too close to the burn line.
The second third has what I would probably call an “oak” taste, borrowing from the wine world. I look at my feet outside and see a bunch of moss at the edge of the patio and think “yep, if I were to smoke that it would probably taste like this”. So moss is probably an apt description too.
The burn is spot-on perfect in the second third, keeping a consistently sharp line around it with no waves. The oak and moss faded fairly quick and take a back seat to a cocoa that’s more earthy than sweet. The changes are happening frequently and fairly fast, keeping me on my toes.
Towards the end of the second third I have to remove the secondary band and the burn gets very slightly wavy, but mostly stays on point. The cocoa is now the predominant flavor again, and it’s fantastic. It’s not as strong of a cocoa as some of the other cigars I’ve smoked recently, but it’s enjoyable.
The final third smells like a smore. Toasted marshmallow sweetness on the nose, and this final third is definitely the best part of the cigar so far. Great chocolate sweetness taste to go along with that smore. That taste and smell profile continues until the end, when it gets too hot to hold.
The burn started out really rough, fixed itself by the end of the first third, ran straight for most of the second third and, after a slight fix before moving into the final third, burned straight until the end.
I didn’t love it as much as I was hoping to with that band. That said, those were high expectations and this was a thoroughly enjoyable cigar other than the brief beginning issues. I wish more of the cigar had been like that final third, but the rest wasn’t bad. The hints at a great sweetness showed themselves early on, but didn’t fully materialize until the end. This is a cigar I’ll keep an eye for a deal on. At just shy of $10 I wouldn’t buy it again, but if I can find it online for closer to half that I would certainly pick up a 5-pack.