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6 best gin advent calendars to get you in the festive spirit

Because booze is a lot more fun than chocolate

Alicia Miller
Wednesday 06 October 2021 16:57
<p>The nostalgic among us may still nibble a daily cube of plasticky choc, but perhaps your sophisticated adult tastes crave more</p>

The nostalgic among us may still nibble a daily cube of plasticky choc, but perhaps your sophisticated adult tastes crave more

Advent calendars: you might say that December isn’t December without one. But while the nostalgic among us may still nibble a daily cube of plasticky chocolate (don’t judge), perhaps your sophisticated adult tastes crave more. Enter, the gin advent calendar. It comes with all the thrill of 10 windows to open daily. Not just because it’s booze (hooray!) but because each wee bottle of gin you reveal is different. It’s all the suspense of a chocolate calendar but way more fun.

The excitement comes with a practical side, too. If you are a gin lover, chances are you love trying new gins. So, each new treat isn’t just about feeding your aperitif hour ahead of Christmas Day. It also provides the opportunity to sample something different without committing to a whole bottle. A 3cl miniature serve is just enough to discover whether a gin just might be your new favourite G&T tipple. Or, just as crucially, whether it’s not.

When choosing our best gin advent calendars, we had three main criteria. First, the calendars had to look great. Given they’ll be on display for an entire month, they should appear pleasant and festive as well as be functional. Secondly, our best gin advent calendars had to be good value for money – you shouldn’t pay massively over the odds for the price of the gins tucked inside. Finally, each calendar had to have some interesting pours included. It’s no good opening each window to discover the same old spirits you see every day at the off-license.

Understandably, given the quality and quantity of the spirits inside – as well as the novelty factor – many of the best gin advent calendars don’t come cheap. But the good news is that, if you’re on the fence, most brands will tell you on their websites exactly what you’ll find inside. And of course, as you don’t know which gin comes on which day, you’ll still get a surprise as you open it.

Finally, because not everyone celebrates Christmas – nor perhaps does everyone desire 24 days’ worth of gin miniatures – we have also included more compact calendars where you’ll find gin-related gifts spanning just a week or two. Use them in the week leading up to Christmas, or for counting down to other seasonal celebrations as you fancy.

How we tested

When choosing our best advent calendars, we first appraised each one’s look and feel – did it appear suitably celebratory? Was the design in keeping with the calendar’s theme and price point? Next, we greedily popped the windows to view every bottle inside, checking that the opening experience felt quality and that the gins were packaged neatly. Finely, we tasted: sampling any spirits we weren’t already familiar with to ensure they lived up to a gin lover’s expectations.

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The best gin advent calendars for 2021 are:

  • Best overall –Craft Gin Club & Philip Schofield the very merry gin advent calendar: £99.95,
  • Best for design– Drinks by the Dram premium gin advent calendar: £84.95,
  • Best for thirsty drinkers – Virgin Wines gin advent calendar: £99.99,
  • Best for flavoured gins – That Boutique-y gin advent calendar: £49.95,
  • Best alternative calendar – Seven Yays seven days of gincredible flavours: £43,
  • Best pink gin calendar – The Premium Pink Gin advent calendar: £44.99,

Craft Gin Club & Philip Schofield the very merry gin advent calendar

Best: Overall

Score: 9.5/10

If you’re wondering “what the heck is Philip Schofield doing on my advent calendar”, then let us fill you in. Schofe doesn’t only love gin, he’s worked with the Craft Gin Club to actually produce his own bottlings. And now, this calendar, which features generous 5cl gin tasters for every December day up to 25. Yep, you even get one for Christmas Day itself.

Solid yet suitably theatrical for the festive season, with cabinet-style exterior wings for added flair, it feels worthy of its price point. Open the outer flaps to reveal the individual windows – as well as Phil’s smiling face and tips on how to make the perfect G&T. And, on the inner flap, a QR code; scan it each day, and you’ll be taken to a video of Phil presenting the daily tipple and sharing a Craft Gin Club discount. It’s a small addition, but the digital element feels like you’ve got two calendars in one – which literally doubles the fun.

As for the gins themselves, expect all sorts of interesting pours that you may not have tried before, such as Ludlow spiced gin from Wardington’s, Rock Rose citrus coastal from Dunnet Bay Distillers and London Dry Tuscan gin from Sabatini. The Big Day treat, of course, couldn’t be anything else other than Schofe’s own Winter Gin, in all its piney, spiced, citrussy glory.

Drinks by the Dram premium gin advent calendar

Best: For design

Rating: 9/10

This calendar calls itself premium, and it delivers. Not just because the gins you’ll find inside are rather on the special side, but because it looks like a luxe item when propped on your shelf. The slick box, with flashes of gold metallic print; the clever layout where each gin window is a slightly different size – this does, indeed, feel worth its £85 price point. Most of all, though, what makes this calendar seem special is how the 24 gins are bottled. The 3cl pours come with a classy wax seal, and a slick label that makes them just as nice to display outside of the box as in it.

As for the contents? It’s a winning selection, with interesting bottlings by big producers – think Hendrick’s lunar gin – as well as some niche boutique stuff (say, Four Pillars olive leaf gin). One thing’s certain: even the biggest gin geeks won’t get bored with this calendar. If we had one complaint, it would be that the doors are tricky to pop elegantly; we found ourselves accidentally ripping more than one. But just as gin is made for drinking, advent calendars are made for opening – and really, it is a small complaint indeed.

Virgin Wines gin advent calendar

Best: For thirsty drinkers

Rating: 9/10

This chunky calendar isn’t as elegant or compact as many others, but there’s a reason for that: it needs its hefty dimensions and thick cardboard to hold masses and masses of gin. Because, unlike most other calendars that include 3cl drams, Virgin generously provides you with a 5cl pour of each spirit. That’s about 40 per cent more gin in total, folks.

And, what gins! Sourced from an array of UK distilleries, you’ll get top British gins made in a variety of styles – everything from classic London dry to flavoured, old tom (great for cocktail making) and even Navy-strength.

Being Virgin Wines – a wine club that specialises in exclusives – some of the gins found in this calendar you won’t be able to get anywhere else, either. For example, there’s the festival spiced orange gin, as well as a lemon and chilli flavoured old tom, both unique. As for other-brand gins? Expect seasonal-specific tipples, including (spoiler alert) Warner’s Christmas cake gin on – you guessed it – Christmas Eve.

That Boutique-y gin advent calendar

Best: For flavoured gins

Rating: 8/10

A 24-day gin advent calendar, for under £50? You could do far worse than this pick of flavoured gins from That Boutique-y Gin Company, packing two dozen pours into a box that brings to mind childhood calendars. The front comes plastered with one of those classic wholesome Christmas illustrations, but with an adult twist: a cosy party scene lined with martinis, hot toddys and champagne cocktails. And, if you look closely, even a few wee drams of That Boutique-y Gin Company gin drawn in.

Each 3cl gin bottle is packaged to perfection, with a wax seal and a cute picture to get you tuned into its flavour profile (a cherry on a bed of juniper, for example, illustrates day one’s cherry gin). Unless you are an extremely dedicated customer, chances are you won’t have tried many of the own-brand gins in here, which have wacky profiles ranging from smoked rosemary to yuzu. Mixed in with That Boutique-y Gin Company’s own pours are a few standouts from well-known producers, including mojito gin from Conker and port-barrelled pink gin from Salcombe. In all, expect fun drams from nine different distilleries, made in four different countries.

Seven Yays seven days of gincredible flavours

Best: Alternative calendar

Rating: 8/10

If a 24-day gin advent calendar sounds like too much of a commitment, try Seven Yays. The company’s premise is simple: why have advent calendars only counting down to Christmas, when you can have them for every occasion? Order a seven-day calendar for the lead up to that big birthday, wedding, anniversary or – should you fancy it – another December celebration entirely. There’s a whole range to choose from, and you can even design your own. But gin lovers are sure to enjoy this, the seven days of gincredible flavours.

Open the funky, graphic doors, and you’ll not only find four top-notch flavoured gins: Slingsy rhubarb (the first “yay”), Warner’s raspberry, Sipsmith zesty orange and Chase pink grapefruit and pomelo (as it happens, one of our very favourite pink gins). Other little gin-related giftables add a nice touch, including a themed cross stitch kit so you can craft your little own gin bottle badge. Then there’s the big seventh “yay” – a rechargeable USB string light to turn your empty gin bottles into atmospheric piece of décor.

The Premium Pink Gin advent calendar

Best: Pink gin calendar

Rating: 7/10

Do you love pink gin and only pink gin? Then this is the calendar for you. A dozen days of rose-tinted joy will appear in its windows, providing you with 5cl tipples from the likes of Whitley Neill (pink grapefruit-flavoured, say) and Chase (rhubarb and bramley apple, for example). We liked the compact but solid box – the windows are extremely satisfying to pop open – and as a 12-day calendar it provides a more subdued pace if you only want to drink every other day in the lead up to Christmas. Our only criticism is that, with so many pink gins out there, we would have liked to see a bit more producer variety; a number of brands included are featured more than once. 

The verdict: Gin advent calendars

We love the Schoefe, and we also love Schoefe’s calendar with the Craft Gin Club – it’s generous, it’s well-packaged, and it channels celebratory festive goodness. Of course, it’s still £100, but this doesn’t just feel like a bunch of gin samples. This feels like an experience.

Gin enthusiasts looking for interesting, exclusive pours – exactly the kind of treats you want to enjoy at Christmas time – can’t go wrong with the Drinks by the Dram premium advent calendar. Even if you really know your way around a gin aisle, you’re bound to discover something new to enjoy here. Which, after all, is a big part of the joy of buying a gin advent calendar.

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