My son is very content with his character advent calendar this year (Kinnerton's Toy Story 4 calendar which he chose before spotting one by Blackwood-based Bon Bon Buddies featuring Illumination's The Grinch a week later).
Normally, I have an advent calendar too (we chocoholics don't miss ANY opportunity to indulge in some extra seasonal chocolates!). I tend to opt for a Cadbury or Nestlé advent calendar, depending on what Asda or Tesco has on offer. The most expensive calendar I ever purchased was Hotel Chocolat's Advent Calendar (£12.50°) a few years ago, and it was a considerably more indulgent treat.
This year, Neuhaus presented me the opportunity to test-drive their premium grown-up advent calendar - and I grabbed that opportunity with both hands. After a small issue with shipping, I took delivery of their 3D Countdown to Happiness Pop-up Advent Calendar, something I fell in love with last year and earlier this year. They also sent me a Classic Advent Calendar to compare, which my better half will enjoy throughout December.
So, what did I make of Neuhaus' advent calendars for 2019?
Neuhaus Pop-up Advent Calendar 2019
Neuhaus has produced Belgian chocolates since 1857 but recently, I've become more aware of the brand at Christmas, when it releases its ornate, intricate advent calendars.
When I learned that a delivery was heading my way, I didn't know what to expect inside and certainly did not expect to see the red glow of this three-dimensional advent calendar. I genuinely was giddy as I unwrapped my parcel and beamed from ear-to-ear when I spotted this calendar. It was not something I could afford to splurge on, so was over the moon to see it in person.
The first thing to note was the sheer size of this beautiful deep red and gold box. It spans a colossal 41cm in length and 31cm in depth, and nearly 4cm in height. It is by far the biggest advent calendar I've ever owned. In a home with a lack of flat space, this calendar has boldly staked a claim to a lot of my worktop space in my kitchen.
On the face of it, this calendar looks like a large selection box of assorted chocolates that you'd buy from a Neuhaus store in Brussels. It contains 331g of chocolates but the sturdy board box itself weighs in at around 1.2kg in total.
But this is no ordinary advent calendar, and it contains a surprise that is revealed only when you open the lid - this is a three-dimensional pop-up calendar. Lift the lid and unfold the sides to form the backdrop for the next 25 days. This stage rests in small pre-cut grooves on either side of the box.
The backdrop is a regal gold and red design based on the appearance of the Neuhaus shop in Brussels' Galeries Royales. It was one of the first shops I visited when I first stepped foot in Belgium's capital city and has a special place in my heart because of that.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert itself is a wonderful piece of architecture, designed and built by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer and opened in June 1847. The glazed shopping arcade is a tourist hotspot you simply have to visit to appreciate, and it has the added benefit of boasting a high concentration of Belgian chocolate shops by the likes of Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, La Belgique Gourmande, Godiva, Chocolaterie Mary, Leonidas, and Corné Port-Royal.
The 3D advent calendar comes to life throughout the 25 day countdown to Christmas. Each door opens upwards and contains one of 25 elements of a Christmas scene. Each day you not only reveal a new piece of Belgian chocolate but you also add to the festive scene. Door 25, a Christmas tree, is the final piece in the puzzle, by which time the completed winter scene is revealed.
Even with no pieces of the scene raised, this calendar already looks grand and spectacular!
The calendar contains 25 milk, white, and dark chocolates, with an assortment of flavours and fillings, so the ingredients list looks long at first glance but not every ingredient is used in every chocolate.
Neuhaus Pop-up Advent Calendar 2019 ingredients:
Milk chocolate (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavour), dark chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, butter oil, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavour), sugar, hazelnuts, glucose syrup, white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavouring), cocoa mass, butter, cocoa butter, cream, caramel paste (glucose fructose syrup, sweetened condensed milk (milk, sugar), coconut fat, water, stabiliser (glycerol of rapeseed), emulsifier (soy lecithins), salt), whole milk powder, almond paste, almonds, stabiliser (glycerol of rapeseed), butter oil, nougat (sugar, glucose syrup, almonds, honey, cocoa butter, potato starch, egg white, flavouring), coconut fat, shea butter, honey, skimmed milk, puffed rice (rice flour, sugar, salt, cocoa butter), raspberry, sunflower oil, butter biscuit (wheat flour, sugar, butter, egg, wheat starch, salt, raising agent (ammonium carbonates)), stabiliser (sorbitols of wheat), candy syrup, water, invert sugar syrup, whole milk, flavours, emulsifier (soy lecithins, mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), dextrose, caramelised sugar, coffee, stabiliser (sorbitols of maize), salt, sugar syrup, salt (Guérande), vanilla, citric acid, corn oil, colour (curcumin).
Sugars represent, on average, just under 42% of the final product.
As you would expect for a calendar with such a price tag, the calendar features many favourites from the Neuhaus chocolate collection:
- Séduction - Dark nougatine with raspberry cream
- Désir 64% Cocoa - Dark nougatine with Peruvian ganache
- Plaisir - Milk nougatine with hazelnut ganache
- Tentation - Milk nougatine with Arabica coffee ganache
- Caprice - Dark nougatine with Madagascan vanilla cream
- Bloc Gianduja - Hazelnut gianduja
- Canasta - Dark Marzipan
- Jean 64% Cocoa - Dark 64% Peruvian ganache
- Criollo 70% Cocoa - Dark 70% Criollo with fresh butter (cacao pod shape)
- Suzanne - Raspberry ganache with praline
- Cornet Doré - Hazelnut gianduja (ice cream cone shape)
- Millionaire - White gianduja with crisped rice
- Millénaire - Milk gianduja with crisped rice
- Mathilde - Dark praline with almond, hazelnut, and hops from Poperinge
- Philippe - Milk praline with Belgian waffles and honey from Sombreffe
- Méphisto - Milk almond and hazelnut praline with caramelised hazelnut pieces
- Art Deco 70% - Dark 70% almond praline with nougat
- Galerie - Dark with sea salted caramel ganache
- Horta - Californian almond praline with nougat
- Albert - Milk hazelnut praline with roasted and caramelised Piedmont hazelnut
- Passion Amandes - White lightly salted praline with caramelised almonds
- Coeur Praliné - Almond and hazelnut praline
- Prestige - Milk chocolate caramel
- Divine - Milk chocolate caramel with Piedmont hazelnuts
- Louise - Java milk chocolate ganache
That's a different type of chocolate from the Neuhaus collection each and every day.
There is no doubt about it. This is a magnificent advent calendar, designed to entertain and delight adults, while allowing us to legitimately join in the countdown to Christmas in a more civilised fashion. Neuhaus' advent calendar is certainly a showstopper and a conversation-starter, and guests will certainly be as enchanted by it as you are. At least that's what I've found so far!
The Neuhaus Pop-Up Advent Calendar is also available on Amazon
UPDATE: This calendar has been re-released for 2020. Check out my review of the Neuhaus 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar for 2020.
Neuhaus Classic Advent Calendar 2019
More traditional in appearance, this square advent calendar spans around 30cm in width and height, and sits at around 3cm in depth. Despite its smaller footprint, this calendar contains 310g of chocolates, just a fraction less than its big brother above. Including the box, the total product is around 475g in weight.
The glossy box features a jolly festive scene of children putting presents under the Christmas tree. It boasts a built-in stand which pulls outwards from the box and folds back into it, secured using a pre-cut slot.
Compared to the Pop-up Advent Calendar, this seems more tailored towards kids, although it still feels 'grown-up'. Teenagers (and adults alike) will perhaps appreciate it more than the little ones.
The scope of chocolate selection is narrower than that of the red advent calendar, with 25 chocolates in a dozen varieties included in the box:
- Roasted hazelnut praline
- Almond and hazelnut praline
- Milk almond and hazelnut praline with caramelised hazelnut pieces
- Dark almond and hazelnut praline with caramelised hazelnut pieces
- Hazelnut praline with a roasted and caramelised Piedmont hazelnuts
- Lightly salted praline with caramelised almonds
- Milk chocolate with caramel
- Californian almond praline
- Pure gianduja
- Milk praline with crisped rice
- Dark praline with crisped rice
- Hazelnut praline figures (bells, snowmen, Santa, Christmas tree, reindeer, and a monkey-like figure).
Compared to the Countdown to Happiness advent calendar, the ingredients list is shorter, but that is reflected in the narrower assortment of chocolates inside the box, most of which are pralines.
Neuhaus Classic Advent Calendar 2019 ingredients:
Milk chocolate (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavour), sugar, dark chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, butter oil, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavour), hazelnuts, white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithins), flavouring), cocoa mass, almond paste, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, coconut fat, caramel paste (glucose fructose syrup, sweetened condensed milk (milk, sugar), coconut fat, water, stabiliser (glycerol of rapeseed), emulsifier (soy lecithins), salt), shea butter, puffed rice (rice flour, sugar, salt, cocoa butter), almonds, sunflower oil, emulsifier (soy lecithins) cream, glucose syrup, butter oil, flavours, candy syrup, stabiliser (glycerol of rapeseed), skimmed milk, caramelised sugar, salt (Guérande).
Sugars represent, on average, just under 44% of the final product.
Personally, I'd opt for the red 3D Advent Calendar over the Classic Advent Calendar every time if money wasn't an issue. The 3D calendar oozes so much class, sophistication, and style, plus it boasts a wider selection of Belgian chocolates. By contrast, the Classic calendar is more traditional, and more in keeping with what you'd normally expect from an advent calendar, and is just under half the recommended retail price of the three-dimensional advent calendar, so is considerably more affordable.
The Neuhaus Classic Advent Calendar is also available on Amazon
If you've tasted Neuhaus' chocolate before, you'll know it is sweet, rich, and satisfying. Their recipes make plentiful use of hazelnuts to compliment the flavour of the chocolate and that is indeed the case here. The pralines blend creamy Belgian chocolate with the flavour of roasted hazelnuts, and they taste divine.
There was a greater variety of flavours in the Neuhaus 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar than the Neuhaus Classic Advent Calendar, which was praline-based. In the 3D calendar, there was a mix of pralines, fruity flavours, and chewy nougatine. All the full-size chocolates were a sweet, intensely rich start to the day. Personally, I preferred the variety of chocolates together with the aesthetics of the 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar over the Classic Advent Calendar. It's a fun way to work through many of the items features in the Neuhaus Timeless Masterpieces Ballotin boxes.
Either Neuhaus advent calendar represents an indulgent way to countdown to Christmas. The Neuhaus 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar adds the fun of creating a three-dimensional festive wintery scene as you eat through the days in December, which is completed on Christmas Day. It's beautifully presented, an eye-catching display, a touch of luxury for December, and full of a good assortment of Neuhaus' chocolates with something for everybody.
While it comes at a premium, I'd definitely opt for the Neuhaus 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar over the Neuhaus Classic Advent Calendar as it's far more grown-up and lavish, with details adults will savour. If you are feeling particularly generous, the kids would love the nutty delights in the Classic Advent Calendar.
Neuhaus 3D Pop-up Advent Calendar Review
RRP: £62.00 | Neuhaus | Shop now
A gorgeous, imposing advent calendar that requires a lot of counter space but looks absolutely stunning. It contains 24 Neuhaus Belgian chocolates,, with each day adding a new piece to the 3D display. It is cleverly designed and an absolute delight to open.