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15 best 21st birthday gifts: Unique presents they’ll actually want to receive

Whether they're a gamer, chocoholic or an avid traveller-to-be, get them something they’ll really treasure

Emma Rossiter
Wednesday 16 June 2021 06:00
<p>We reviewed dozens of gifts to find the ones that really wowed</p>

We reviewed dozens of gifts to find the ones that really wowed

When it comes to milestone birthdays, it’s fair to say that turning 21 is a big one. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in our lives and firmly cements us with “adult” status – although being “grown-up” is still a subjective term in our books.

But while many of us may look back on our 21st birthdays with fond, and possibly fuzzy, memories, when it comes to the gifts’ we received, sometimes they can be harder to recollect. Unless you asked for a big-ticket item you were probably gifted the safe option of money or perhaps a wine or pint glass with the number 21 emblazoned on the front. And let’s face it – that glass hasn’t been used since.

But if you could go back and do it all again, wouldn’t you want to be surprised with something a bit different? We would, which is why we took it upon ourselves to round up the best gifts for 21-year-olds, and, we’re pleased to say, there was plenty to choose from.

We were looking for gifts that were somewhat unique, yet still had a big wow factor and would appeal to a wide group of recipients. We also wanted the gift to have longevity past the birthday celebrations and would suit a variety of budgets – just because it’s a big birthday doesn’t mean a gift should have to break the bank. Bonus points were given to gifts that had the ability to be personalised for that extra special touch.

Of course, a lot of your final decision will depend on your recipient’s tastes. And while it may seem easier, or indeed safer, to stick to a bottle of bubbly or a gift card, we think that any one of these gifts will put a smile on their face.

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The best 21st birthday gifts for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Not Another Bunch Of Flowers build your own gift box: £8,
  • Best personalised jewellery – Auree Barcelona June birthstone necklace moonstone: £125,
  • Best men’s watch – The Camden Watch Company No.27 Camden x thy barber: £145,
  • Best for chocaholics – Hotel Chocolat the velvetiser hot chocolate maker: £99.95,
  • Best party box – Two Keys paloma party box: £64.95,
  • Best for cocktail lovers – Tom Savano Handcrafted Cocktails lychee martini: £13,
  • Best for whisky drinkers – Redbreast 12 year old whiskey: £51.54,
  • Best for gamers – Creative SFXI air gamer: £104.99,
  • Best for the office – The Cambridge Satchel Co. the Emily: £275,
  • Best for bookworms – Rare Birds Book Club 3 month subscription: £42,
  • Best for make-up gurus – Delilah vegan brush collection: £140,
  • Best for globetrotters – HB London silver grey saffiano leather passport holder: £55,
  • Best for relaxation – Made By Zen gem diffuser: £68,
  • Best unusual gift – The Urban Botanist birthday bonsai gin copper terrarium: £69.95,
  • Best for mental health – MindJournal the journal: £29.95,

Not Another Bunch Of Flowers build your own gift box

Best: Overall

There’s no better way to show someone you really care and really know them than by building your own personalised gift box. We’re obsessed with this idea from Not Another Bunch Of Flowers and loved how easy it was to put the perfect bespoke gift together. You simply start by picking your occasion and box – which start at around £8 – and then fill with all sorts of goodies.

You can choose everything from slices of millionaire’s shortbread and chocolate buttons, to Neal’s Yard products and personalizable mugs, keychains and even pyjamas. Our 21-year-old male tester loved opening it up – the gifts just never seemed to stop coming – with the Leon Happy Curries recipe book being a particular favourite. What we love most about this option is that you can strike a perfect balance between gifts they’ll enjoy immediately with items that could last a lifetime. It’s a great all-rounder that would appeal to almost any personality, plus you can tailor it to almost any budget, big or small. Most importantly though, it’s sure to be a gift they never forget receiving.

Auree Barcelona June birthstone necklace moonstone

Best: Personalised jewellery

It might seem a bit of a cliché – but who doesn’t enjoy getting jewellery as a present? For that reason alone, we’re sure they’ll love this bespoke birthstone necklace. Our tester tried out her birthstone, moonstone, which is a stunning white and crystal-like gem and received plenty of compliments about how sophisticated and elegant it looked. The chain is made from 18ct yellow gold on sterling silver and is adjustable – though we found it was just the right length hitting just below the collar bone. Plus, for an extra £30 you can opt to have the back of the pendant engraved, making this necklace even more personal. We think it’s a great gift that will not only be enjoyed on and around their birthday, but for many years to come too.

The Camden Watch Company No.27 Camden x thy barber

Best: Men’s watch

Maybe it’s just us, but shopping for blokes is hard! Especially if we wanted to find something that would be equally as sentimental as the Auree necklace above. Enter The Camden Watch Company and their beautifully designed watches. Each watch they make is inspired by Camden itself and would suit all personalities and tastes. Our choice however, the No.27, is entirely derived from the colours, textures and stories of the barbering world.

We adored the reddish-brown leather and thought it complimented the gold and white face beautifully. It looked smart and chic, yet still had a timeless (no pun intended) and traditional feel to it – the perfect blend of old and new. Our 21-year-old tester said it fit perfectly and that he could imagine himself wearing it both in the office and out on the town. We reckon it’s the perfect present for a parent or grandparent to give as you know it’s something that’ll be treasured for years to come.

Hotel Chocolat the velvetiser hot chocolate maker

Best: For foodies

Another safe option for birthday gifts is of course chocolate. But we propose you go one step further and treat the young chocoholic in your life to a velvetiser. Admittedly, it’s not the most conventional 21st birthday present, and it’s on the pricier side of the spectrum, but hear us out. We’re not exaggerating when we say it makes the best hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted – perhaps unsurprising given that Hotel Chocolat is behind the model. Sumptuously smooth and drinkable chocolate is ready in less than three minutes and they’ll have to physically stop themselves from going back for more – but really who’s really holding back on their birthday anyway? Plus, it’s practically two gifts in one. They can enjoy it now and take it with them when they move away from home, if they haven’t already. Bargain!

Two Keys paloma party box

Best: Party box

If you’re looking for a gift that’s going to give them the wow factor, plus hours of entertainment then this is it. The Paloma party box by Two Keys comes with everything and the kitchen sink. Inside you’ll find a 70cl bottle of Patrón silver tequila, eight bottles of pink grapefruit mixer, a beer pong set, a bar blade and measurer, two sharing sized packets of crisps, and even coasters and temporary tattoos, all for less than £65. OK, so it’s not something you’re going to keep forever, but we imagine it’s the sort of gift that will easily get the party started and create memories that will.

Tom Savano Handcrafted Cocktails lychee martini, 200ml

Best: For cocktail lovers

Even now we can get back to the pub garden, you’ll still find us happily lounging in our own garden sipping on one of Tom Savano’s concoctions. These beautifully handcrafted spirits are sublime and would make the perfect gift for a whole range of cocktail drinkers.

If your 21-year-old recipient is partial to whiskey there are old fashioned’s (£27, to suit. Or, if they prefer to sip on something sweeter then the floral and fruity flavours found in the lychee martini (which was our tester’s favourite) could be the way to go. Simply put, there’s something for everyone, all they’ll have to do is pour over ice and enjoy. They’re reasonably priced, with a 200ml bottle costing just £13, so you could pick a range, or splurge on a 500ml bottle which is still just £27. Good prices and delicious drinks make for a great gift they’re sure to enjoy, even if for only a short while.

Redbreast 12 year old whiskey

Best: For whisky drinkers

Ask any 21-year-old to name a brand of whisky and and many of them will give you the usual names – think Jack Daniels. But now they’re that little bit older and wiser, why not take the opportunity to introduce their palate to something else? Redbreast’s 12-year-old whiskey not only looks like a real treat – the burgundy box and smart bottle really makes this look special – but what was on the inside definitely counted.

Not only was this a huge hit with our tester, who has only recently started sipping whisky the “proper way”, but also had his dad and grandad asking for more. All three generations agreed that it was smoother than other whiskies we tested and the type of bottle they’d only bring out on special occasions – and really what’s more special than toasting to being 21 with loved ones?

Creative SFXI air gamer

Best: For gamers

When it comes to gaming there’s nothing more important than creating a truly immersive experience, and a good gaming headset will do that with ease. Our tester said that this headset gave him the best bluetooth and wireless sound he’s ever used. He particularly commented on how the “battle mode” made it sound like he’d been dropped right in the middle of one of his games, which was completely surreal but made the experience all the more enjoyable.

We did have a bit of trouble getting the microphone to work originally. However, once we figured out how best to set it up, we loved having the freedom to continue gaming while chatting on the phone to a friend – something that will be particularly enjoyed by those on gaming systems that don’t usually offer voice chat. The addition of lights is a fun and quite unique element, but given the price and time to set up, this headset won’t be for everyone. Still, with 11-hours of playtime and unbeatable sound, we think it’s a gift hardcore gamers will love.

The Cambridge Satchel Co. the Emily

Best: For the office

As fun as turning 21 is for many it also marks a new chapter into adulthood. If they’ve just finished university and are about to start their first job, this bag is sure to see them through. It’s made using 100 per cent British leather and pale gold hardware and has plenty of room inside. Measuring 16.5in it’s plenty big enough for a 15in laptop – our tester’s Macbook and charger fit comfortably inside and still had enough room for a notebook, purse and some other essentials – ideal for commuting to and from the office as and when offices stagger their return.

We really put this bag through its paces, and despite all the items we crammed inside it never lost its shape or buckled under the pressure. Our only slight niggle was that when dashing for the train the clasp wasn’t the easiest to open and close again – but that probably says more about our time-keeping skills than this bag.

It is pricey, but we think it’s worth every penny. Plus, as it comes in six different colourways, including a very smart black and supremely chic French grey, it’s sure to work for every professional while still being as good an option for play.

Rare Birds Book Club 3 month subscription

Best: For bookworms

Rare Birds Book Club was designed to “put the joy back into reading” while helping its subscribers to “discover the best of female-authored fiction” and we can certainly attest that they deliver, in every sense of the word!

Signing up or gifting this as a subscription couldn’t be simpler. Just go to their site, click “give a gift” and choose between a three, six or 12-month subscription, then how you present your gift is up to you. Send them an email, digital e-card or have them send out a gift card. Once the gift has been redeemed, subscribers get the chance to choose between two mystery books – they’ll only get a short blurb to read before they make their choice and then the book wings its way to you. Plus, when it arrives – wrapped in tissue paper we hasten to add, just to build the suspense – you’ll receive a note from founder Rachel explaining why this book is one of the month’s picks.

We’re halfway through the latest read (no spoilers on what the title is) and while it’s not necessarily a book we may have picked ourselves had we seen it in store, we’re loving that it’s pushed us outside of our comfort zone. There’s even an online forum where everyone discusses the book of the month and a shop where you can purchase previous months’ titles. If they love to read then you really can’t go wrong.

Delilah vegan brush collection

Best: For make-up gurus

This is not only a gift for the make-up lovers amongst you, but for the eco-conscious too. Beauty retailer Delilah is a well-respected name in the industry, beloved by the likes of Holly Willoughby and Katherine Ryan – and for good reason. In January this year the brand officially became 100 per cent vegan and has absolutely no products, formulas, brushes or even packaging containing any animal-derived ingredients. Plus, it’s certified by Peta as a cruelty free brand.

It does all of this and still its products never scrimp on quality. Our reviewer adored this eight-brush set, which comes with every brush you could need to complete a full-face of make-up, and a handy case. We think it’ll make the perfect small set for your 21-year-old to take with them on the go. The brushes feel so soft to the touch that they’re almost too good to use.

HB London silver grey saffiano leather passport holder

Best: For globetrotters

Remember travelling? That thing we used to do that involved planes, passports and plenty of sun cream? We think gifting the young jetsetter in your life a personalised passport holder could be just the sweet, sentimental and reusable gift they didn’t know they needed.

Not only will it keep their passport safe, but it’ll stand out in their bag and be used on endless trips to come. You can choose between black or grey leather and then silver, gold – standard or genuine 22k gold – rose gold for the personalisation. It’s simple but looks totally sophisticated. If you wanted to go all out, you could pair it with a matching leather luggage tag (£45, or even a personalised suitcase which start at £125.

Made By Zen gem diffuser

Best: For relaxation

Another gift that they will be using way past their 21st birthday – who doesn’t want to chill out and have their room smelling lovely too? The gem of a diffuser is fashioned to resemble rose quartz and as soon as we took it out of the box and plugged it in we immediately felt calmer. It has a soft orange glow, courtesy of the LED lights, and has the option for continuous misting or intermittent. We chose the latter, as with a few drops of the oils that Made by Zen also make, you’ve enough to last for several hours. It’s certainly an unusual gift but would be appreciated by anyone who enjoys those self-care Sundays (or Mondays, or Tuesdays...)

The Urban Botanist birthday bonsai gin copper terrarium

Best: Unusual gift

Whether they’ve grown to love gardening or are only just venturing into the world of being a plant parent, this terrarium from The Urban Botanist could be their most unusual but most loved gift. We really liked how easy the terrarium was to set up, and the fact it comes with fairy-lights, a little “Happy Birthday” plaque and a bottle of gin made it all the more exciting. Arguably it doesn’t really serve a purpose but the green ball moss and miniature bonsai tree are air purifying, so it could be a great addition to a bedroom. Plus, it’s totally low maintenance! You can almost guarantee no-one else will have bought this and your 21-year-old certainly won’t forget about it anytime soon.

MindJournal the journal

Best: For mental health

This will be a very personal gift to give, so one for close family or friends to invest in. More than just any old notebook, the journal uses a highly researched system of guided exercises, mood trackers and questions developed with direct input from psychology professors and therapists. Recipients will find ample room to write down their thoughts and feelings as well as complete lists, and jot down any goals or achievements.

Our tester, who admittedly has never journaled before receiving this gift, was really impressed with the way you’re guided into journaling. He said it made him feel more at ease and was something he could see helping him through his new stage in life. We think this is a great gift and not just one limited for 21-year-olds. People of all ages could really benefit from this journal and it could be a great gift for anyone who struggles with their mental health or expressing themselves. It’s a timeless gift that they can turn back to again and again as they continue to learn and emotionally grow.

The verdict: 21st birthday gifts

Ultimately, whatever you decide to buy comes down to how well you know the recipient and their likes and dislikes. That’s partly why we picked Not Another Bunch of Flowers gift boxes for our best buy – you can’t get more personal than handpicking all those goodies for them. Plus, it’s a fun gift that they’ll enjoy unboxing.

If you’re able to splash a bit more cash though, the Camden Watch Company’s no.27 and Auree’s Barcelona necklace are gorgeous choices that they’ll keep with them and wear for a long time to come. We also adored Two Keys paloma party box for its party starting abilities, and making us wish we were turning 21 all over again!

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