Hotel Chocolat, Drinks by the Dram and Playmobil were big winners, while Fortnum and Mason’s chocolate was deemed ‘inedible’ as Which? put this year’s crop of luxury chocolate, gin and children’s toy advent calendars to the test.
With Christmas fast approaching and warnings of impending shortages, shoppers are already stocking up on advent calendars for December – so Which? tested 23 advent calendars to reveal which are worth your money and which are better avoided.
In our luxury chocolate advent calendar tests, only three calendars came out on top and were awarded an Editor’s Choice. The Hotel Chocolat Grand Advent Calendar (£68) received high praise for looks and the variety and quality of its chocolate.
More than half of Which?’s panel said they would consider buying it for their partner, and would love to have it bought as a treat for themselves.
The more affordable Butler’s Advent Calendar (£18) did not have the same variety of gifts as the Hotel Chocolat calendar but the consumer champion’s testers rated it highly for its stylish looks and the quality of the chocolate.
The Love Cocoa by James Cadbury Luxury Chocolate Truffle Charity Advent Calendar (£25) was also named an Editor’s Choice. It was the only luxury charity calendar tested – with all proceeds going to the NHS – and was rated highly for the variety of the chocolates and the 2021 themed decorations on each window of the calendar, featuring Captain Tom Moore, Joe Wicks and James Bond.
Fortnum and Mason’s Piccadilly Chocolate Advent calendar is designed to look like the grocer’s iconic central London flagship store and is described on the company’s website as ‘a daily decadence for the most discerning of chocolate lovers’. But it was the worst calendar tested – with every single person on Which?’s five-person panel spitting out the chocolate due to a ‘chemical taste’ which made it inedible.
Of the five gin advent calendars Which? tested, the Drinks by the Dram Premium Gin Advent Calendar (£84.95) came out on top. It received high praise for its packaging and variety of gins – featuring gins from around the world and small niche distilleries.
That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar (£49.95) was also awarded an Editor’s Choice and was the second favourite of everyone on Which?’s panel. At £35 cheaper than the top calendar, researchers did not find it had the worldwide range of the Drinks by the Dram calendar but praised its selection of UK bespoke distilleries and mix of sweet and dry gins.
The other calendars Which? tested did not score as highly, partly because they contained several cheaper-to-produce gin liqueurs with much lower ABVs, which did not provide the same value for money.
Which? also tested nine popular children’s advent calendars ranging in price from £15 up to £25, from some of the biggest toy brands, including Lego, Playmobil, Barbie, Hot Wheels and Polly Pocket.
Our panel selected three Editor’s Choice calendars, including the Playmobil Pirate Island Advent Calendar (£18.29). Most of Which?’s panel said they would buy this calendar for a child, and three of the four adults in the panel also said they would be quite happy to have this calendar bought for themselves.
The Barbie Dreamtopia Advent Calendar (£19.99) and Lego City Advent Calendar (£19.99) were also Editor’s Choices. The Barbie calendar contains a Barbie doll plus accessories – which adds up to be good value, considering a Barbie doll can cost £10 on its own.
The Lego advent calendar was also a popular pick among Which?’s panel and received high praise for the quality and consistency of gifts. Behind each window there’s a small Lego kit – although this may prove too fiddly for some younger children.
On the other end of the scale, Which?’s panel had concerns about the Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Advent Calendar (£24.99) and the Polly Pocket Advent Calendar (£19.99).
The Hatchimals advent calendar contained only one Hatchimal egg and the other 23 gifts were small poor quality plastic accessories, cardboard cutouts and stickers. The panel universally said they disliked the toys that came out of nearly all of the windows.
Which?’s testers said the toys in the Polly Pocket advent calendar seemed to be very low quality with what appeared to be visible lines from the plastic mould on them.
Testers were also concerned about the environmental impact of these calendars – as many of the poor quality toys would ultimately be destined for the landfill.
While all three Editor’s Choice calendars contained plastic toys, they all had toys that would ultimately have a much longer life than the others as Playmobil, Barbie and Lego are gifts that can be handed down and reused.
Ele Clark, Which? Retail Editor, said:
“With December fast approaching and warnings that there could be shortages this Christmas, many are shopping for festive essentials early this year – including advent calendars.
“Our research shows it pays to do your homework when looking for an advent calendar this Christmas, as the difference in quality and value for money between the best and worst examples in our tests was huge.”
Notes to editors
Chocolate advent calendar testing
Full list of calendars tested: Hotel Chocolat Grand Advent Calendar (£68), Butlers Chocolate Advent Calendar (£18), Love Cocoa by James Cadbury Luxury Chocolate Truffle Charity Advent Calendar (£25), Coco Chocolatier Advent Calendar (£50), Fortnum and Mason Piccadilly Chocolate Advent Calendar (£22), Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate Advent Calendar (£10), Hotel Chocolat The Advent Calendar For Two (£26), Lakeland Chocolate Advent Calendar (£9.99) and Yawn Hot Chocolate Advent Calendar (£26).
Which? asked a panel of five volunteers to rate each chocolate advent calendar on how they looked, the quality of the chocolate and the variety of the chocolate. The consumer champion also asked them to say which calendars they would most likely buy for their significant others, and which ones they would like to be gifted themselves.
Gin advent calendar testing
Full list of calendars tested: Drinks by the Dram Premium Gin Advent Calendar (2021 edition) (£84.95), That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar (2021 Edition) (£49.95), Blue Tree Gin Advent Calendar (£83.99), Premium Pink Gin Advent Calendar (£44.99) and The Little Boys Room Giant Gin advent calendar (£144.95).
Which? asked a panel of three willing volunteers to rate each calendar on how it looked, and the quality of the gins inside. Each member of our panel said which calendar they would prefer to be bought for them, and which one they would be likely to buy for someone else.
The consumer champion also factored into our scoring the variety of gins in each calendar, the proportion of lower value and lower ABV liqueurs, and whether the gins in the calendar were commonly available at UK supermarkets.
Kids advent calendar testing
Full list of calendars tested: Playmobil Pirate Island Advent Calendar (£18.29), Barbie Dreamtopia Advent Calendar (£19.99), Lego City Advent Calendar (£19.99), Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Advent Calendar (£24.99), Haynes Retro Electronic Games Advent Calendar (£25), Hot Wheels Advent Calendar (£20), Lego Marvel The Avengers Advent Calendar (£24.99), Playmobil Christmas Grotto Advent Calendar (£14.97) and Polly Pocket Advent Calendar (£19.99).
Which? asked a panel of four researchers, including parents, aunts and uncles to rate each calendar on the quality of the gifts inside, their consistency, and the aesthetics of the unopened calendar. Each member of the panel was then asked which calendar they would gift to the children in their own lives.
After considering all of the above, Which? rated each calendar and awarded Editor’s Choice to three of the nine calendars tested.
Rights of replies
Fortnum & Mason declined to comment.
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