Forget your past dalliances with sambuca. Made with a bit of ginning, our elderberry eau de vie is co-distilled with star anise: the result is silky smooth, with lush mouthwatering layers of aniseed. 

Served chilled and neat as a digestif, or use it to baste roasting leg of lamb, along with a small amount of freshly chopped lavender and rosemary.


Reset your view of sambuca.


From the UK’s only sambuca distillers comes the rarest and most surprising of tipples: an utterly gorgeous sambuca that tastes really nice. You can sip it without setting fire to it, or worse. Forget your past encounters with sambuca and reset your view of aniseed with a glorious glass of scratch distilled English Sambuca.

One of the key things that makes this sambuca special is the base spirit: we've opted for the rarely encountered traditional route of using an elderberry eau de vie rather than neutral grain spirit as a base. The difference is obvious in the smoothness, mouthfeel, and intensity of flavour in the spirit. Yes, it's true: craft sambuca is as tasty as it sounds.


Sambuca was invented in Italy about 150 years ago. It’s name comes from the latin name for the elderberry plant, sambucus - as the drink was traditionally made from elderberry wine. Fast forward to the last 50 years or so, and commercially available sambuca has suffered the same fate as many spirits. It’s now commonly made with a cheap neutral grain spirit, masked with too much anise and sugar, which ultimately prompts the violent reaction that so many of us associate with a shot of sambuca.  So, in the classic English Spirit, Dr John decided to have a crack at making a sublime English version, in the traditional manner.

“We bought a range of different sambuca and whilst one or two smelt good, they all tasted awful: chemically, bitter, overly sweet and left a taste I did not want in my mouth. My immediate inclination was that have to make one of these and it must be delicious.”

- Dr John Walters,

'The Drinker's Guide to Distilling, Part 1'

Elderberries; star anise; sugar



We’ve already briefly referenced the usual commercial method of making sambuca: now contrast that with ours.

We start by distilling, from scratch, an elderberry eau de vie in one of our copper pot stills. This is a smooth base spirit with exactly the right profile we need before moving onto the next step: co-distilling with star anise.


With no need to mask a fiery base spirit, we add just the right amount of star anise into the still: which means extracting all the flavours we want, without going so far as to leech out the undesirable bits like tannins and bitter oils.


To top it off, we give a nod to traditional sambuca by adding a touch of English sugar: not so much to make it sticky and oversweet, but just enough to enhance the intrinsic flavours and bolster the luscious mouthfeel.


And there you have it: a handcrafted English Sambuca that will revolutionise the way you think about aniseed.


We also like to serve in a tumbler, over ice, as the melting ice dilutes the drink and results in the lovely pearlescent haze.


We’ll let Dr John do the talking here:

“I drink my English Sambuca simply chilled in a cold glass after dinner as a digestif. Very very moreish. Some drink it with coffee beans. I believe the tradition is seven coffee beans to represent the seven hills surrounding Rome. Burning it seems a complete waste to me, as well as a significant risk to one’s safety.”

We also like to serve in a tumbler, over ice, as the melting ice dilutes the drink and result in the lovely pearlescent haze.

Back to Dr John:

“Just worth touching on aperitif and digestif. The former we drink before a meal because when we consume alcohol it drives our blood sugar down. When our blood sugar falls it is a hunger signal, so we feel hungry and that heightens our appetite prior to a meal. Most people better know the alcohol-induced hunger signal after a night at the pub and the craving for a curry! On the digestif front, this is normally a stronger spirit. The idea is simply to assist with the emulsification of the fats in your meal to aid digestion.”

And so, a glass of English Sambuca complements many dishes very nicely. Dr John’s preference is pairing with Welsh lamb, to help settle the stomach after a rich meal. In fact, basting the lamb with a few coatings of English Sambuca, mixed with chopped lavender and rosemary, also makes for a cracking and impressive dish in itself.

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • LinkedIn

Great Yeldham Hall

Essex, CO9 4PT

Tel. 01787 237896

Treguddick Manor

Cornwall, PL15 7JN

Tel. 01566 788310

© 2021 JW Distillers Ltd

Registered in England No. 09414942, VAT Number 206752614

Registered Office: Great Yeldham Hall, Church Road, Great Yeldham, Halstead, Essex, CO9 4PT

Please drink responsibly.