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Cheese advent calendars for an alternative Christmas countdown: Paxton & Whitfield vs ‘So Wrong it’s Nom’

With one being £8 and the other £150, which represents the best value for money?

Ella Buchan
Tuesday 23 November 2021 10:53
<p>We considered the quality, taste, variety and presentation, as well as packaging</p>

We considered the quality, taste, variety and presentation, as well as packaging

There’s not much you can’t find in an advent calendar nowadays. From gourmet food to mini gins, they’re getting tastier and more indulgent every year. And though Cheese advent calendars are newer on the scene, they have proved unsurprisingly popular.

In comparison to beauty calendars, there are only a handful out there. This is partly because of the obvious logistical issues with the fresh produce making delivery a little trickier, as well as storage. But they still exist, you just have to know where to look.

The first cheese advent calendar – created in 2016 by Annem Hobson, via her blog So Wrong it’s Nom (£8, Ocado.com) – was designed to fit in the fridge door. Between it’s compact size and purse-friendly price, it’s no wonder that it’s sold out every year since.

On the other end of the scale you have Paxton & Whitfield’s artisan advent cheese calendar (£150, Paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk). You’ll receive three deliveries throughout the course of December, and inside each will be individually boxed, hand-wrapped cheeses. This ensures each cheese is fresh and can be easily stored in your fridge without taking up that all-important shelf space.

How we tested

We compared these two very different styles of cheese advent calendar to see which we would recommend to satisfy your Christmas cravings. We sampled a wide range of cheeses from each calendar, keeping notes about the quality, taste, variety and presentation. We also took into account how they were delivered and the design of the packaging, since that’s especially important when it comes to advent calendars.

Read more:

Paxton & Whitfield artisan advent cheese calendar

Rating: 9/10

Paxton & Whitfield has a fine pedigree. The London company has specialised in artisan farmhouse cheeses since 1797, when it was appointed cheesemonger to Queen Victoria and counted Winston Churchill among its fans. Naturally, we were expecting a fine selection of cheeses in its first ever advent calendar, and we weren’t disappointed.

The company gets around the fridge-door dilemma by delivering the 24 cheeses in three batches of eight, packaged in a box lined with sheep’s wool and reusable ice packs and sent via an overnight, carbon-neutral delivery (a detail we appreciated). And each individual cheese is nestled in its own straw-filled box.

The packaging is simple and elegant, with a wreath and number printed on a black background. Each of the cheeses is individually wrapped in wax paper with some background on the style and maker, alongside tasting notes and pairing suggestions, inside the lid. It feels luxurious, like a really, really fabulous friend has shipped you some favourite cheeses they selected from the deli, and it reflects the quality of what’s inside.

Read more: Best Hotel Chocolat advent calendars to indulge in

These are not tiny rounds of cheese – they are generous wedges and blocks, weighing at least 75g each. Based on the company’s usual prices, £150 represents decent value when you take into account the included delivery and charming packaging.

The sheer variety of the British and European cheeses is also a top selling point. We enjoyed an aged cheddar and the red Leicester was probably the best we’ve ever tasted. There was also a soft goat’s cheese rolled in charcoal which was deliciously creamy and tangy, and velvety blues like perl las from Carmarthenshire, Wales and (of course) a stilton.

You could eat one cheese each day, but it’s perhaps more likely that you’ll want to use them as the basis for a few top-notch cheese boards through the festive season. It isn’t the cheapest, by a long way. But you would expect to pay more than usual for cheeses of this calibre, so it’s really a matter of how much you really love tasting a variety of different styles – and the average household shouldn’t need to buy any other cheeses for Christmas.

‘So Wrong it’s Nom’ Ilchester cheese advent calendar

Rating: 7.5/10

The first thing to note about the So Wrong it’s Nom cheese advent calendar is the price. It’s almost unbelievably cheap. Given the cute packaging and the range of individual cheeses inside, it’s great value for money.

Read more:15 best Christmas gifts for wine lovers

The calendar has a wreath design on the front with “baubles” of cheese, opening up like a book to reveal 24 numbered windows, classic advent style. Behind each is an individually wrapped round of cheese that can be eaten in a few satisfying bites.

It’s produced by Annem Hobson, who blogs about cheese via So Wrong it’s Nom, in collaboration with Yeovil, Somerset based Ilchester Cheese. So, while these don’t quite hit the quality levels of those in the Paxton & Whitfield box (£150, Paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk), they’re perfectly lovely and a far cry from cheap plasticky cheeses.

A decent range of styles includes aged and applewood-smoked cheddars, red Leicester and the addictive Mexicana, a cheddar shot through with bell pepper, jalapeños and chilli. We also loved the limited-edition (and fabulously festive) apple, onion and sage, which had a decent balance between sweet, tart and herby and would be a nice addition to Boxing Day leftovers.

Read more: Our guide to this year’s Christmas food from M&S, Aldi and more

Where it falls a little short is the surprise factor: there are nine types of cheese, mostly quite everyday varieties, and aside from the festive flavours you’re unlikely to discover anything new. These are approachable cheeses with nothing that will blow your mind or tastebuds. Many people, of course, will prefer that to an array of strong and potentially pungent cheeses. And, again, given the price it exceeds expectations. It fits neatly in the fridge door, looks jolly and offers up a nice nibble of cheese every day. What’s not to love?

The verdict: Paxton & Whitfield vs ‘So Wrong it’s Nom’ cheese advent calendars

Overall, we found the quality to be far superior in the Paxton & Whitfield artisan advent cheese calendar (though that is to be expected considering the enormous price difference). For those who adore cheeses of all kinds, love to try different styles and enjoy indulging a little more around the festive season, it’s just a real treat. Every package is a delight, and it has an old-school charm about it: you can imagine the cheesemongers carefully selecting, slicing and wrapping up each wedge.

The value of the ‘So Wrong it’s Nom’ Ilchester cheese advent calendar is undeniable, though, and it’s a great option for anyone who can’t quite justify spending £150 on cheese alone. It’s a real matter of taste, too: the cheeses in Paxton & Whitfield calendars are award-winning and objectively fine, though of course not everyone enjoys strong flavours and might find the more pungent styles challenging. The truckles in the cheaper calendar, meanwhile, are definitely made for everyday munching.

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If you’re looking to have a very merry Christmas countdown, read our review of the best gin advent calendars

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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