Received a fresh 20 cl bottle of the 18 and opened up my own bottle of 25 (so far for waiting for an occasion... you people are bad for my principles) First HTH was saturday, but I couldnt believe the result and did it again on sunday, results were the same.
Highland Park 18 43%
Nose: Nutty, sweet sherry, Slightly liquer-ish with a sultana sweetness. Fruity with date's, raisins, figgs and orange zest, then a soft undertone containing honey and in the back a whiff of peatsmoke. With time the nose changes and becomes alot sweeter.
Taste: Sweet sherry with lots of dried fruit, apricots,mild raisins and figgs. All in balance with a dark smoky underground. Very oily body, a velvety mouthfeel containing pronounced honey.
Finish: Smoky with some peat arrival, very long, sherry and lots of sweet fruit. Now there's a more obvious presence with nutts, hazelnut and a hint of almonds and there's a subtle hint of marsepan to it too. The honey from the taste gradually fades away.
Opinion: Very well balanced, Full flavored and packed with sherry, fruit, nuts, honey and smoke. Very complex because all the flavors are so well integrated and balanced with eachother. Although there's just a bit more sherry then anything else.
Highland Park 25 50,7%
Nose: Initially floral, marsepan and a hint of françipagne. There's a subtle acetic tone to it too, wich fortunatly dissapears after awhile. Almonds, sweet, malty with brown bread, somewhat restrained, even after some time in the glass. Subtle hint of oak, milkchocolate and nutts.
Taste: Complex, somewhat spicy, slightly spirity, some honey and dried fruits. Sweet fruity sherry, apricots,tangerines and raisins. Malty undertone with toffee.
Finish: Mild whiff of honey and sherry, sweet toffee. Lots of changes here. Very long and complex, subtle hint of almonds and marsepan. Apricots and this time grapes, hint of peat.
Opinion: Well balanced but not the same as the 18y old. Complex, sweet and fruity but more presence of spices. Slightly more spirity then the 18 but also more restrained.
So, the 18 is IMHO actually better then the 25! The last times I did a HTH with these two they were always the last of the tasting session, wich must be why I rated then 25 better due to the higher alcohol.
Nevertheless, I must apologize to Crieftan, I was wrong and honestly I feel a little ashamed now that I suggested to buy the 25. For what its worth, I really thought the 25 was better before these new HTH's and personally I would still prefer a dram of it over the 18 but thats pure personal, its the sultana sweetness of the 18 that doesnt appeal to me very much, objectively, the 18 is better,I am sorry about that, perhaps I should send your Mss a box of chocolate...
Edit: We also tested the oxidation, We put the fresh HP 18 against a HP that was opened for almost 2 years! The fresh one nosed and tasted exactly that: more fresh. Although in the nose after 15 minutes there were almost no changes left, the taste was significantly different, everything was still there, but was flattened alot. Still, after 2 years I believe it was quite impressive. The sherry was a mere echo of its fresh counterpart and there was a distinct oakyness in the old one with a bitter tone to it. Goes to show oxidation does has an effect, be it less then I expected.