With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to tick off everything on your festive to-do list, which can be harder than you think.
Struggling for present ideas? Not sure what bottle of bubbly to drink on the big day? Need some games to occupy guests on Christmas afternoon? Well, that’s where our ultimate Christmas guide comes in, giving you the best festive advice from our ibuys experts.
We’ve worked our way through boxes and boxes of mince pies, sipped and swirled different beers and wines, and tested toy after toy to find out what’s worth eating, drinking and gifting this year.
Christmas present ideas
If you’re in need of a little gift inspiration for your dad/brother/boyfriend/distant cousin, we’ve found plenty of potentials.
If you’re only looking for a little something extra though, try our guide on the best stocking fillers for men under £30.
What do you get someone who has everything (which is often the case with your mum)? Well, we’ve got some ideas…
Dressing gowns are a great gift, providing warmth in the chilly winter months – and we’ve found the best ones for this year. If she’s into beauty, there are some great beauty subscription boxes available (which are also a good last-minute option for anyone you may have forgotten), or try a stylish makeup bag.
There’s our pick of the best winter perfumes to consider too, as well as our jewellery and lingerie guides, if you’re looking for something more personal or intimate. Otherwise, what about a tried-and-tested bottle of gin?
If it’s just a stocking filler you’re after though, try our selection for under £30.
Every Christmas there are always endless present options when it comes to children. But how do you know what they really want? Well, start with the most popular toys of the year and you’re bound to found something of interest. Our Christmas toy guide can help you there.
Christmas is the time of year where you can indulge without a guilty conscience. From the Christmas turkey with all the trimmings to a cheeky mince pie (or three), you’ll need to stock up your cupboard for you and your guests.
From £45, Farmison & Co
Best for: Michelin-star meat
Key specs – Weight: 2.5kg; Serves: 8; Cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes; Delivery dates: 4-29 December; Availability: Across UK
This whopper of a turkey was a doddle from start to finish and pre-prepared for you by Farmison’s very own Michelin-star chef (he’s even cooked for Obama). Farmison provides detailed cooking instructions too, so you can rest assured the big day will go without a hitch.
Every bite of meat was deliciously succulent and tasted just as great the next day in turkey sandwiches. We found the fruity, chestnut stuffing was generously dispersed all the way through the centre of the meat, so no one will end up getting a slice without. There were no bones either, so it couldn’t have been easier to cut a slice. We were told this cut serves eight but we reckon it could stretch further.
More: Pre-prepared turkeys
£13.50 per kilo, Waitrose
Best for: Game-flavoured meat
Key specs – Weight: 6.4 kg; Serves: 12 – 14; Cooking time: 4 hours 20 minutes; Delivery dates: From now online for home delivery or buy in store; Available: Across UK
These turkeys are able to roam free in the fresh air, getting lots of exercise, and have an impressive natural diet, including corn and soya and lots of foraging, so it’s no wonder they came out high on our taste test, with an ever so slightly gamey smell and flavour.
The birds are left to grow to full maturity and dry hung and plucked, and matured for a minimum of seven days. This results in firm breast meat and plenty of it, though it was a touch dry in parts. For those who prefer the leg meat, this was dark and rich, again gamey but more intense and sweeter than the breast.
More: Whole turkeys
We’ve taste-tested mince pies, too. Check out our full reviews or our top picks (below).
£1.60 each or £8.75 for a box of 6, Gail’s
Best for: Overall flavour
Key specs – Number included: Buy individually or in a box of 6; Weight: Variable (as homemade)
Finished with a generous sprinkle of demerara sugar, the dark-golden pastry of Gail’s mince pies was exceptionally crumbly and light. The heavy fruit filling was quite tart, which stopped the overall flavour from being too sweet. And we really liked the homemade appearance, with some of the spiced fruit trying to escape its case around the edges. This London-based bakery must be doing something right, its been using the very same family recipe for the past 13 years.
Best for: Value
Key specs – Number included: 6; Weight: 390g
We can’t fault these great-value bakes. Buttery pastry encases sticky, sweet and spicy mincemeat. Tesco hasn’t forgotten the traditional booze either, with Courvoisier VS Cognac added to the mix. We liked the addition of walnuts, which gave the mixture a little extra texture, while a touch of ginger gives them a fragrant kick. Finished with a snowflake topping, they look great too.
More: Mince pies
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a panettone for pudding. Take a look at our full reviews, or our top picks.
£29.95 for 900g, Carluccio’s
Best for: Gifting
As a celebration cake, panettone is very often served with a glass of fizz, and Carluccio’s is wisely selling a gift set of its rich panettone flavoured with a prosecco custardy cream, and a bottle of the famous Italian fizz.
You can buy the Venetian-made cake, which comes in a purple and gold box, on its own for £19.95, but the set will make a generous gift for one of your favourite hosts.
£15 for 750g, Waitrose
Best for: Sturdy packaging
This is quite heavy for a panettone, but the dough is a lovely pale-yellow colour, and sweet and buttery, while the raisins are big and juicy and surrounded by generous shreds of orange and lemon candied peel.It comes in a tin so it will travel well if you’re crossing the country (or continents) this Christmas.
If you’re the one doing the travelling this year, greet your host with a festive food and drink hamper and you’ll probably get the biggest slice of turkey come Christmas dinner.
For a wider selection, see our latest reviews. Otherwise, our top pick is below.
£99.97, Not On The High Street
Best for: The widest selection of contents
Key specs – Number of food and drink items included: 15; Delivery time: 14 days
This beautifully packaged hamper from The British Hamper Company was one of the more expensive ones we tested, however, we still felt it was excellent value for money due to the range of goodies inside.
Opening it was like opening Mary Poppins’ handbag; a relentless discovery of festive treats from across the country, such as Cotswold Fudge, Perry Court Farm apple crisps, Hawkshead Christmas chutney for post pudding cheese and biscuits, and of course, a Simply Delicious Christmas cake.
It’s the ideal hamper to see the whole family through from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day with snacks. We loved the British-themed box, too, adorned with red buses and Big Ben, which could be used for keepsakes or for present wrapping the following year.
More: Christmas hampers
Looking to stock up the drinks cabinet? Have a rather fussy bunch of guests? We’ve selected our top picks from the latest ibuys drink reviews.
Best for: Effervescence
Key specs – Volume: 750ml; ABV: 12.5%; Style: Blanc de Blancs
This all-Chardonnay champagne from the Côtes des Blancs (a much respected growing area in the industry) has an effervescent citrusy energy as well as some sweet and nutty underlay, which will develop if kept for a year or two.
£25 is on the upper end of the supermarket fizz price scale, but it still represents good value for a vintage grand cru, the label given to champagnes made only from grapes from villages which have been marked out for their excellent quality (premier cru is the next rung down).
£13.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd
Best for: Alpine acidity
Key specs – Volume: 75cl; ABV: 11.5%; DOCG
The Berry Bros. & Rudd own-label range of wines can be relied upon to deliver perfect examples from any given region, and this prosecco is no exception. The family-run vineyard exclusively uses 40-year-old vines for this particular wine, which are grown at high altitude in the heart of the Valdobbiadene area, giving this one its refreshing alpine acidity.
You’ll find slightly more complex flavours here – think yellow plums and orange blossom – alongside the more ubiquitous green apples. A delightful aperitif that’s best enjoyed well-chilled.
£42.95, The Whisky Exchange
Best: Wild gin
Key specs – Volume: 500ml; ABV: 45%; Distillery: The Dyfi Distillery (Wales)
Provenance is the key for this wild Welsh gin, made on the edge of Snowdonia National Park by distillers Danny and Pete Cameron. Locally occurring botanicals are sourced from the surrounding countryside; the Dyfi valley lies within a UNESCO biosphere so there are rich pickings to be had.
Plants such as gorse flower, bog myrtle and bramble leaves all go in the mix, making this gin taste fresh, green and grassy, like a Welsh mountain pasture. The brothers Cameron like to take things slow – Hibernation gin is matured over winter in a rare, seasoned white port barrel, which imparts a mature vanilla warmth to this fruity, herbal gin. Good things come to those who wait…
Best: Entry-level option
Key specs – Volume: 700ml; ABV: 45%; Made in: Kentucky
This is an unusual bourbon in that it’s made with 70 per cent corn, barley and red winter wheat (but no rye) and is produced using many of the same handmade techniques as when it was first launched in the 1950s. The resulting bourbon is lighter and sweeter than many of the others on this list and it has a smooth, buttery character that makes it a great choice for anyone unfamiliar with bourbon’s boozy pleasures, whether they want to drink it neat or use it in cocktails.
It still possesses lots of the spiky oak characteristics common to bourbons, but these are nicely subdued by the clean flavours of the grain. And just because it’s sweet and light it doesn’t mean it’s not of exceptional quality: it’s enjoyed by bourbon enthusiasts of all levels.
Best: Introduction to Speyside whiskies
Key specs – Volume: 700ml; ABV: 40%; Region: Speyside; Aged: 12 years
Over half of Scotland’s distilleries lie in the Speyside region and include the three biggest-selling single malt whisky brands: Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Macallan. These excellent whiskies deserve to be in anyone’s cabinet but we’ve gone for a Speyside that has recently been racing up the popularity charts – Balvenie’s DoubleWood.
Owned by the William Grant & Sons family that also produces Glenfiddich, it receives a second maturation in sherry casks, giving it a rich intensity that leads it to be referred to as an after dinner whisky. We think the aroma is just like a posh Chelsea bun – fresh, sweet, bready and studded with sultanas – and our dessert descriptors continue with the taste: we were reminded of licking the Christmas pudding spoon. It’s sweet and spicy, rich and fruity, and comes with a hint of oak on the finish that helps contribute to a satisfying, lingering boozy warmth.
Best: Introduction to Japanese whisky
Key specs – Volume: 700ml; ABV: 43%; Distillery: Suntory
A common goal for Japanese whisky producers is to create a sense of elegance and harmony in their drinks, rather than aim for the intensity of flavours that are sought elsewhere, and this release is an excellent example of the Japanese way.
It’s a blend of whiskies from the various Suntory distilleries that have been matured in five different types of cask. This complexity could lead to a sensory overload, but in a Japanese master blender’s hands it has a light touch that soothes with honeyed sweetness, refreshes with fruity orange and gently warms with oak and soft spices. It’s a very smooth and gentle drink that should have an appeal beyond seasoned whisky drinkers, and although the price has increased in recent years, we still think it’s worth the outlay.
More: Japanese whiskies
We love a novelty knit at Christmas, so we’ve found the best options for men, women and children. And if you’re into the whole family wearing matching clothing, we’ve also found some fun and festive family pyjama sets.
£22.50, Shop Disney
Best for: A magical Christmas
Key specs- Fabric: Acrylic blend; Sizes: XS to XL; Colour options: Grey
We love this fun, festive jumper, which is lightweight and super-soft so you can stay warm and cosy. At just over £20, it’s great value and you’ll be able to wear it for years to come. The striped sleeves contrast brilliantly with the vibrant character print on the front, while Minnie’s sequinned, sparkly bow is the icing on top of the festive fruit cake. Beware, the sizing is quite generous though, so always go down a size if unsure.
Best for: A season-wide wardrobe staple
Key specs – Fabric: Wool blend; Sizes: S-2XL; Colour options: Grey marl
This jumper can be worn all season long. The subtle mountain scene is a delicate and classy way to appreciate the winter months. The high-quality knit means the inside of the jumper is clean and neat too, with no loose strands that start to unwind with continued wear. Do bear in mind that it’s hand-wash only, though. But the fabric is 80 per cent wool, so it’ll keep you extra toasty in the icy months ahead.
£11.90, Mamas & Papas
Best for: The cute factor
Key specs – Material: 100% cotton; Sizes: Newborn to 4 years old; Machine washable: Yes
This design was a crowd-pleaser, winning compliments and “awws” from other parents and passers-by. The Christmassy red colourway matched with the ‘little pudding’ slogan and picture makes this a suitably festive option, without losing out on style. It’s easy to pull on and off, with three buttons at the back, and it’s soft against delicate skin. It’s a warm option, too, and one you won’t regret buying for your own little pudding.
From £10, Next
Best for: The whole family
Key specs – Included: Each size sold separately; Sizes: From newborn to adult XXL; Machine washable: Yes
These fun – and yes, festive – pyjamas are part of Next’s Just Like Me range, which includes so many matching items of clothing that you and your family can now basically make dressing the same a full-time job.
The range features numerous pyjama options but twinning togs aren’t just for bedtime here – you can co-ordinate shirts, jumpers and even aprons. It’s excessive, unnecessary and a little bit naff – so absolutely perfect for Christmas.
This set is utterly adorable and, more importantly, comfortable. The sprout-print trousers are fun and fit like jogging bottoms, and the tops in the youth and women’s sizes have hems and cuffs that make them more like a sweatshirt than a traditional long-sleeved T-shirt. The adult sets were true to size but the child ones did come up a little small – our tester comfortably wore an age three when she normally fits in 18- 24 months.
When the Christmas dinner is finally over and everyone’s had their afternoon nap, boredom often strikes. Keep guests and little ones entertained by investing in a couple of board games. Our ibuys testers put this year’s selection to the test to find out which ones will provide the most family fun.
Best for: Stats fans
Key specs – Age: 12+; Players: 2-4; Play time: 60 minutes
Download the free app on your phone and play an at-home version of this hit TV gameshow, where thinking of the most obscure answer is the key to winning. This was a big hit with teens and older members of the family, but younger players struggled to find a low score in some of the general knowledge questions. The app was great for storing stats and scores though, as well as tracking who was Pointless champion.
Best for: Show-offs
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players:3-6; Play time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
We’ve been bombarded with Strictly, It Takes Two, the Podcast… now you can fill those moments without glitter with a board game. Three AA batteries are required for the glitter ball, which takes centre stage, to provide the voice of Craig Revel-Horwood and the songs you may need for challenges and the dance off.
Answering trivia questions about the series will move you over the Strictly stage and on to the grand final when you’ll be voted champ – or chump. Great fun if you like to bust some moves.
£15, John Lewis
Best for: Family fun
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players: 2-4, Play time: 45 minutes
When hotels on Park Lane are just not exciting enough anymore, add a bit of skulduggery to the mix. The Cheater’s Edition positively encourages bad behaviour with cards directing you to pickpocket, dodge rent or steal from the bank. It even has a set of board handcuffs for those who have been caught in the act. Our testers said it took a while to get to grips with the new rules, but it was great, noisy fun.
More: Board games for 2018
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