This year I was tasked with writing guides for the best food, drinks, Advent calendars and gifts to enjoy this Christmas season. But on compiling these guides there were certain products that stood out, those that I considered to be the perfect gift, food that was just absolutely delicious or items that were so luxurious that they simply must be enjoyed by one and all this Christmas. Here is my pick of the most luxurious products for the festive period.
Starting with an absolute Christmas essential, champagne, I enjoyed a bottle of Champagne Castelnau a perfect balance of depth and edge, this gorgeous Champagne tempts with green apple, brioche and a touch of flint on the nose, with pin prick bubbles lifting the palate, all supported by bright acidity and a superbly refreshing finish. Due to the relatively high proportion of chardonnay it is very floral on the nose, but further complexity is revealed with herbal notes of ginger and the distinctive apricots, lemon and grapefruit. The flagship Brut Réserve is aged five years, resulting in great integration and balance. This would be lovely before a meal, perhaps on Christmas eve with a touch left in the bottle for a bucks fizz on Christmas morning. This Champagne is also very good value and can be purchased from the Wine Society.
This could also be paired with a selection of meats, cheeses and other indulgences we just can’t resist at Christmas from the Snowdonia Cheese Company who sent me the most glorious hamper to enjoy. Their Festive Celebration Hamper is a decadent gift hamper with red wine, cheeses, chutneys and deli treats. There are so many lovely things I just don’t know where to begin but I can tell you it fed four people for several days in a row. I invited a few friends over to enjoy the hamper and we all agreed on similar favourites: The Miller’s Toast Cranberry and Raisin crackers paired with the Rock Star cheese, the fig and apple chutney and La Vecchia Balsamic Jelly were delicious with everything, the Golfera Salami with Truffle was sublime and the Laudemio Frescobaldi Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been enjoyed with many a fresh loaf of crusty bread. This would make a wonderful gift for a family or a couple who love the finer things in life.
If a huge hamper of food is a little out of your budget but you want to gift someone something delicious and indulgent, you have to try out the Fudge Kitchen. Growing up in the Lake District I’ve had my fair share of fudge so thought nothing could beat my favourite variety. Believe me when I say this is the creamiest, smoothest, most delicious fudge I’ve had in all my years on this earth. They boil up each batch in a huge copper pot over an open flame which is then poured onto an Italian marble counter to cool, where their artisan fudgeteers skilfully turn it with huge spatulas in fabulous flourishes. Offering everything from fudge sauce, crackers and even drinking fudge, the Fudge Kitchen has no shortage of products to give this year.
I tried their Yuletide Slab Fudge selection and have never had a clotted cream fudge so good. The sea-salted caramel is dangerously good whilst the dark chocolate flavour slab is rich yet smooth and flavoursome. You can also give someone the gift of a subscription to Fudge Kitchen, which I would actually recommend because as soon as you’ve tried some you’ll just want more!
Now let’s move away from food for a bit while I suggest something I found life changing. This is Silk was founded in 2017 by Sonal Keay, who had used Silk to manage her own skin condition and help with the condition of her hair. A small, family business based in the Cotswolds, This is Silk produces everything from robes, hair wraps, eyes masks and hair curlers but what I had wanted to try was their Silk Pillow Case after hearing “Sleeping on cotton accelerates the ageing process. Sleeping on Silk delays it.” Specially chosen for its ability to soften skin and smooth hair as well as the pure comfort of the fabric, the pillow case makes going to bed even more of a pleasure at the end of the day. After only a week of restful nights I noticed my hair was so much smoother and tidy in the morning and my skin has considerably less breakouts. Give the gift of anti-ageing, restful sleep this Christmas, who wouldn’t want that?
From something that will please everyone we move on to the more acquired taste, specifically those who like a strong spirit that you wouldn’t just pick up in your local supermarket. The first comes from the more popular than ever, Patron. After being hand-chopped, their piñas are baked in small brick ovens to ensure they’re cooked evenly. Then, they’re crushed by a two-ton volcanic stone Tahona wheel and a roller mill. The resulting mixture is fermented for three days, distilled and, in some cases, aged in handmade barrels. In Mexico, each signature bottle of Patrón is measured and moulded to perfection, such as the Patrón Añejo they sent, which is Oak aged for over 12 months to produce a tequila perfect for sipping. With an oakwood taste and notes of vanilla, raisin and honey it leaves a finish of smokey and caramel notes, perfect for the Christmas season and enjoying in an old fashioned with friends.
My other favourite spirit of the season comes from The GlenAllachie, a Scottish distillery founded in 1967 and who won the ‘Scottish Whisky Distillery of the Year 2019’ award along with over 50 other awards since then. They sent me a bottle of The GlenAllachie 15-year-old that I think is absolutely perfect for the Christmas season. Combining Single Malt matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso Sherry Puncheons & Hogsheads, this Speyside whisky is incredibly indulgent with an overriding Christmas cake character, alongside clove-studded oranges and dark chocolate truffles. You couldn’t get more of a Christmassy flavour than that surely? Truly the ideal whisky for cosy nights by the fire, or in my case a lovely warming drink after a long walk with the dog in the cold November rain.
Containing seven amazing products that take your dishes to a whole new level, such as white soy sauce enhances almost any sauce or dish, providing a distinctive depth of flavour without overloading on salt or dark colours. Marinades, soups, dressings, rubs, dips and sauces all taste better after stirring in the sweet, fermented, umami flavour of white miso. Okinawa Sugar is something I didn’t know I needed in my life and trust me when I say your taste buds will be alive with appreciation. Just make sure your family knows they’ll be eating Japanese food for the foreseeable future as this stuff is addictive!
If you are not yet inspired then do not fear as we will be sharing our ultimate Christmas, food, drinks and gift guide in the coming weeks in time for Christmas and the festive season. You can also find out which Advent calendar you need to buy this December here.
Another gift that would certainly please anyone is a stunning, luxury gift box from Gifts by Mint a luxury gifting service dedicated to hand-picking everything from fine wines and spirits to luxurious and indulgent homewares, accessories and those special pieces that will surprise and delight both family and friends. With gift categories such as ‘For him’ ‘For her’ ‘For home’ ‘Host and home’ and ‘Bath and beauty’ there’s plenty to choose from as well as concierge service and a choice of wines, champagnes and spirits with your box. I was given a ‘Thank you’ box consisting of a full bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée NV, a Union Jack fine milk & dark chocolate selection by Charbonnel et Walker, one of Britain’s first and finest chocolatiers, and a Floris Cinnamon and Tangerine candle that has been filling my living room with its glorious scent all week. But it’s not just the content of the box, the actual packaging is absolutely beautiful and you know it’s going to be special just by looking at it. The gifts are carefully placed and presented in a way that is pleasing to the eye upon opening, guaranteeing the recipient will be over the moon with what’s inside. A really lovely service that would certainly please everyone I know.
Next, a personal favourite that combines sustainability, practicality and style. Parugo Upcycle, named after the Latin for hermit crab, a Paguro takes an empty shell and carries it for protection. It uses a natural product and puts it to good use. Similarly Parago Upcycle takes reclaimed, recycled and repurposed materials and makes products that are useful, stylish and long-lasting. I requested their Anna Recycled Rubber Vegan Tote Bag handcrafted with recycled rubber in an eco-friendly and cruelty-free way. Reclaimed inner tubes are a popular leather substitute, due to their similar textures and unique patterns, in fact no bag is exactly the same so you will always receive a unique product. The bag is big and spacious enough to double as an overnight bag and has a handy zip pocket inside. I’ve loved using this bag and many friends have remarked how lovely it is and how much they love the idea of something being so useful and also so sustainable.
Finally we come to something that is the perfect gift to any budding chef, or in my case an ex-chef who still answers to the call of the kitchen from time to time. The Wasabi Company is the only grower of wasabi in England, but this family owned business also curates a range of over 250 Japanese products, carefully selected from some of the best artisanal producers so that there is everything you need in one place to enjoy Japanese cuisine at home. If you’re not sure of what individual products you should get then don’t worry because the brand has created a wide range of gift sets and cooking kits to suit every kitchen. I tried out the Ultimate Japanese Cooking kit, designed to deliver the essence of Japanese cuisine to your kitchen.