Colour: The 21y is burnished and the 25y two shades paler at deep copper. The texture of the 21y shows small tears with medium fast legs while the 25y has bigger and more sticky tears with medium fast legs. Not a really good oiliness on both drams, unfortunately.
Nose: The 21y offers a nice profile of mainly autumn floral, herbal and spicy wooden aromas that is balanced but not overly complex. Some barley sugary sweet aromas pop up after a while. The nose of the 25y is more complex as it adds fruity and heather honey aromas to the party. Clearly I prefer the 25y on this dimension but to be honest: I had much better HP noses in the past...
Initial mouthfeel: The 21y arrives warming and (just a little) coating on the palate with significant adstringent moments from heavy tannins and a slight bitterness. This is not my favourite mouthfeel, unfortunately. Luckily the mouthfeel of the 25y is better but still it is not really coating (I expected this from the rather weak oiliness already). At least there are no adstringent or unpleasant bitter moments. But where is the trademark great mouthfeel of HP gone these days?
Taste: The taste of the 21y is very wood driven with spices and herbs in a rather bitter setting. This is too unbalanced for me as the sweet and fruity flavours hide in the background and are hard to detect. The 25y is better on this dimension too but again without being truly great (like older batches). Still this is a fine and complex taste with lots of different flavours, for sure. But I cannot score this above 90 points as this would be unfair to many other fine drams.
Finish: The 21y adds some sweet flavours (sugars) during the medium finish that are highly welcomed to at least somewhat balance out the drying bitterness. The finish of the 25y is just of a medium length too (the light texture takes its toll) and it dries out at the end (cold ashes, papers).
Some water opens up both the nose and taste of the 21y nicely (a two points difference in my score) but it is not recommended with the 25y as this dram flattens out quickly when reduced by water.
Oops, this was unexpected. The usually very consistently great 20+years bottlings of Highland Park seem to have degraded substantially. The rather light texture/oiliness cannot match the big mouthfeel and finish of older HP drams (did they hurry the distillation too much?). Both the nose and taste are way simplier than previous batches and somewhat unbalanced with too much wood influence and missing many delicate fruity and peaty aromas of older HP's (for my taste buds, maybe others see this different). To be honest, I would rather buy older batches at auctions than these new editions - even if their design is not that fancy...