You don't have to be a child to enjoy finding surprises hidden behind these doors - from gin and tea to crackling, Jack Rear samples the best
One of the best things to have happened to Christmas in recent years is the acceptance that advent calendars aren’t just for children.
On a cold, damp morning, we all now have a reason to spring out of bed and see what’s hidden behind today’s door. With an ‘adult advent calendar’, rather than be greeted by a dodgy illustration of a robin or a snowman, you get a delicious treat – a mini mince pie or a speciality gin (no, thanks, I’ve not had breakfast yet).
So which calendar should you choose? This year, we took on the arduous task of seeking out the very best, opening every door to discover which ones will light up your Christmas and which should end up on the naughty list. Here, then, are our picks.
That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar
Behind each of the 24 doors is a wax-sealed 3cl bottle of the good stuff. We found every flavour of gin you could imagine, from strawberry and balsamic vinegar to cucamelon. Enough to give you a taste, not so much that you’re going to be buzzed before work.
Given that the festive season is so full of delicious treats, it can be easy to feel a bit left out if you have special dietary requirements. This calendar is chock-full of vegan, gluten and dairy-free treats – cookie dough bites, chocolate flapjacks – ensuring you have a tasty snack to look forward to each day of the week.
Teapig’s Tea advent calendar
Designed like a puzzle box, it’s surprisingly difficult to find each door on this one; call it a Christmas brainteaser. But there’s a specially selected tea-bag behind each that makes it worth the hunt. We found fruit and spice, chocolate flake, mao feng green tea, and… well, let’s just say there’s a very special selection on Christmas Eve.
Selfridge’s Selection Mince Pie advent calendar
Nothing says Christmas like a delicious mince pie, and the ones contained in this Selfridge’s calendar are second to none. With traditional, almond, citrus and chocolate varieties on offer, there’s plenty of variety here, so you won’t get sick of eating stuffed pastry every day. This is also one of those rare advent calendars that gives you something to open on Christmas Day itself.
The best part of £100 for an advent calendar sounds steep, but that’s only because you’re getting some truly luxurious and exclusive whiskies in this one. From Tullamore Dew to Jim Beam Devil’s Cut to a decadent Loch Lomond 12-year-old, this one is stuffed to the brim with some of the rarest and best whiskies out there.
Poilane Advent Calendar
Twenty-four bottles of craft beer from around the world await you in what is the biggest advent calendar we’ve tested. At 25 inches tall, you might have to need a wall to lean this against. But it’ll be worth the space: behind every door is a full-sized beer bottle and a couple of lines about who makes it and where it comes from. A beer lovers’ dream.
Kellogg’s 12 Days Of Christmas Calendar
OK, it’s not technically an advent calendar because it only has half the number of days necessary. Behind every door you’ll find a packet of a classic Kellogg’s cereal, from Frosties to Corn Flakes and in the bottom of the calendar there’s a special retro bowl from which to eat them. An ideal desk accessory for the busy office-worker.
With more speciality gins and tonics on sale than ever before – last year, more than 73 million bottles of gin were sold in the UK, breaking all records – it can be seriously difficult to know how best to serve your drinks. But this advent calendar could be the ideal crash course ahead of Christmas, featuring 12 gins and 12 tonics in alternation from likes of Sipsmith, Portobello Road, Slingsby and Warner Edwards.
Debenhams Chilli Sauce Advent calendar
December can be a nippy month, and who wants to spend it shivering? To keep your cockles warn, there’s this advent calendar, with 24 miniature chilli sauces hidden behind the doors. A dash of habanero, chipotle and cajun will spice up your Christmas.
Snaffling Pig Pork Crackling and Beer Advent calendar
Another gargantuan calendar – a good 20 inches tall – this one comes packed with savoury goodness. It alternates between offering a packet of pork crackling in barbecue, maple and salted variants, with a can of Snaffling Pig beers (lager, pale ale and session ale) with which to enjoy them.
Bird And Blend
Another tea-based calendar featuring 24 different blends including hazelnut rocher, bonfire toffee and blue raspberry. It even contains a few exclusive flavours that aren’t available from Bird & Blend, such as banana bread chai and Brighton Rock.
The only bad thing about stuffing your face with delectable goodies in the run up to Christmas is that you can’t help but feel a little selfish in doing so. But this beautiful calendar is designed to be shared. Each drawer contains two portions of Whittard’s luxurious hot chocolate, with flavours including Rocky Road, sticky toffee pudding and raspberry ripple white chocolate. Ideal for having a cosy cup with a loved one over the festive period.
So Wrong It’s Nom cheese Advent calendar
The original ‘unusual’ advent calendar, and arguably the one that started the trend, was the 2017 So Wrong It’s Nom cheese calendar. This year, it’s back with eight brand new cheeses for you to enjoy. Applewood smoked cheese, Mexicana cheddar, Ilchester Double Gloucester… there’s so much top quality fromage that all the creatures of your house will be stirring, especially the mice.
Fortnum & Mason Feasting Advent calendar
Gin, honey, biscuits, marmalade, coffee, truffles, mustard, lemon curd, florentines, tea… Fortnum And Mason has stuffed its advent calendar with the best and most luxurious food and drink of the season that’s sure to have the neighbours turning green with envy. If you’re able to restrain yourself, you could even save up all your goodies for the ultimate Christmas picnic.
From Love Actually to The Holiday to Miracle On 34th Street, the greatest bad films come out at Christmas time. Get yourself in the mood for a festive viewing party with a daily miniature bag of Joe & Seph’s luxury popcorn. You’ll sample salted caramel, double chocolate, banoffee pie and raspberry cheesecake. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely better than the stuff you get at the cinema.
The Vodka Explorer Advent Calendar from Drinks by the Dram
Filled with 3cl wax-sealed bottles of hand-selected luxury vodkas from around the world, there’s all sorts on offer here, from Gorilla Spirit’s Black Mountain Strength to Staritsky Levitsky Reserve. Anyone who says vodka is a boring spirit can educate themselves with this one.
The Naked Marshmallow Co. Advent calendar
Is it truly Christmas without a roaring fire? No, it is not. So treat yourself to a truly flaming advent calendar: it comes with a pot of flammable oil over which you toast your marshmallows – 24 fluffy and delicious squares with unique flavours including American-style s’mores, milk and cookies and butterscotch.
This 24-dram box has some intriguing releases, from world-renowned brands to delicious new discoveries, making this a winner for avid fans and newbies alike. 30ml drams include Isle Of Jura 18-Year-Old, Nikka Days and Balcones Texas Single Malt.