Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

Season 2 - Episode 10: Looking Beyond Eyesight Featuring Dr. Hoby Wedler & Jackie Summers

November 04, 2022 Stephanae McCoy
Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.
Season 2 - Episode 10: Looking Beyond Eyesight Featuring Dr. Hoby Wedler & Jackie Summers
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode title and number: Looking Beyond Eyesight Featuring Dr. Hoby Wedler & Jackie Summers | Season 2 - #10

Brief summary of the show:
Welcome to Season 2 Episode  10 of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.  This month's episode centers on a beautiful partnership of two individuals who come together to create a unified front to combat systemic barriers. Topics revolve around barrier-breaking, sensory literacy, privilege, diversity, blindness, aromatic symphony, and more.

Dr. Hoby Wedler's Bio:
Dr. Hoby Wedler is an insightful, disarming, and passionate thinker who loves to bring people together to help them see new possibilities. With the heart of a teacher, Hoby helps turn dreams into realities. Hoby has been completely blind since birth. He is a chemist, an entrepreneur, a sensory expert, and is driven by his passion for innovative, creative, and insightful thinking. Hoby is remarkably tuned into his surroundings and has frequently chosen to walk the unbeaten paths in life over known territories. In 2016, Hoby earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UC Davis. His fearlessness is infectious, and he has actively paved the way for others to join him in his quest to follow passions regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.

Jackie Summers' Bio:
An acclaimed author, public speaker, and entrepreneur, Jackie Summers is the founder of JackFromBrooklyn Inc. and the creator of the award-winning Sorel Liqueur. After being diagnosed with a spinal tumor and given a small chance to live, Jackie Summers not only beat those odds, but left his decades-long corporate career to create Sorel as a way to honor his Barbadian heritage. Following 623 failed attempts, Summers perfected the first and only shelf-stable sorrel liqueur. Most recently, Summers was nominated for the James Beard Media Award for Personal Essay, Long Form, and was honored among Wine Enthusiast’s Future 40 and Food & Wine magazine’s Drinks Innovators of the Year. Summers’ mission is to tell stories of marginalized peoples in their own voices.

Bullet points of key topics & timestamps:
0:00 | Welcome
2:16 | How Hoby & Jackie Met
6:36| Hoby's Blindness Journey
16:40 | Jackie Speaks On Hoby's Contributions
21:05 | Jackie's Background & Build Your Own Table
24:37 | Hoby's Crash Course On Sensory Literacy
32:52 | Jackie Talks About Sorel's 2022 Awards
37:44 | A Little History On Sorel
38:43 | Connecting With Hoby & Jackie

Connecting With Hoby Wedler & Jackie Summers

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Thanks for listening!❤️

Steph:

Welcome back to another edition of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Podcast, the show that's clearing the air for more A.I.R. (Access, Inclusion, and Representation). I'm Stephanae McCoy and with me on my co-hosts, I'm Nasreen Bhutta and Sylvia Stinson Perez. For November's podcast, we are positively stoked to talk to two amazing people. We've titled this episode Looking Beyond Eyesight, which we feel is so appropriate given the story we're about to share with you. I met Dr. Hoby Wedler, a blind chemist through a PR firm that recommended him as a Man In Motion feature on Bold Blind Beauty. After reading that in 2012, he was one of President Barack Obama's Champions of Change. Then later he landed on Forbes 30 under 30, presented a TED Talk on Sensory Literacy, and in 2021 was on the Wine Enthusiast "40 under 40 Taste Makers" I was smitten. If this weren't enough, learning about Jackie Summers and Hoby and how they connected, I was over the moon. Jackie is the first legal black distiller in the US and the founder of Sorel, the most awarded liqueur of 2022. Earlier this year, he hired Dr. Wedler or Hoby as he likes to be called to help scale the production of Sorel while maintaining quality and improving the formula. Gentlemen, it is so awesome to have the two of you here today with Nasreen, Sylvia and I on Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

Jackie:

It's an honor to be here. Thank you so much.

Hoby:

Thank you so much. It's an absolute pleasure to be here with all, and, and share this room with with all of you, each and every one of you.

Steph:

Thank you, Hoby. So we're gonna hop right into the questions. The first question is for both of you, and we're just dying to know how in the world did the first legal black distiller in the US and a blind chemist begin working together? How did that happen?

Jackie:

You wanna handle that one Hoby or do you want me to do this?

Hoby:

Oh, I'll, I'll take a stab at it, but I'm sure I'm not gonna get everything right. Okay.

Jackie:

Knock it out.

Hoby:

So Jackie and I have a common care and belief and desire to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for everyone and to help marginalized people every step of the way. And we were very fortunate to be together. I was a guest and a panelist, and Jackie was the chair of a panel with a group basically promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the wine and spirits industry. Great group. A woman by the name of Rena brought us together to to have, have a discussion about, you know, what it's like working in the hospitality industry as well as in the production industry. We hit it off real well there. Jackie was amazing. He's the only person who's gotten on a call with me to get to know me and, and told me at the end of the call, Hey, I had a blindfold on that whole time to live the call, kind of through your experience. I did not know this, and I just was tickled at the time. And we hit it off real well then. And then Jackie was in, in Petaluma with his partner, which is my hometown, and invited me to meet. We had an incredible meeting, had had lunch and had a good conversation about what we both do. I talked to him about some of my past projects, like, you know, making spice blends and a lot of my work in the food science world. And about three months went by and, and he gave me a call and said, Hey, If you wanna think about working together? and I said, My goodness, I never dreamed of working with someone as as awesome as you and let's see what we can do. That's my side of the story. Jackie, what's your side of the story? So it is very, very similar to what Hoby said. I was doing work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the hospitality space. And specifically I was trying to address. The fact that diversity is not just a racial issue. As a black person, I have suffered a significant amount of discrimination in the industry, but I have to move through the world with the awareness that I've got tremendous privilege, I've got able bodied privilege, I've got male privilege, I have got English speaking privilege, and I have found in these conversations in a general, that the conversation about diversity gets limited to race. We don't talk about ageism, we don't talk about ableism. We don't talk about some of the other things that are actually much, much bigger problems. There are, I, I think it's arguable to say and Hoby you can, you can correct me on this, but the most discriminated group on the planet is people who are suffering with disabilities. Second only to that is people who are older. I felt this was worth addressing. Hoby is a fantastic speaker. He's articulate, he's passionate. He's incredibly well-informed. Listening to Hoby talk about these things with just grace and dignity makes everyone want to be a better person. It makes me want to be a better person. So when the opportunity to actually engage his services professionally as a chemist was opened up, I honestly couldn't wait to get him on board. And his contribution has been consistently fantastic, both from a professional perspective and the dynamic he adds to our group. Thank you so much for saying that Jackie, and it's, it's mutual. I mean, the, the group is, is incredible and, and you are truly a, a an incredible leader. And I guess I should share that I've been blind since birth myself. And yeah, it's just, it brings it all together and we all, what we realize when we think about diversity in the way that Jackie just, just discussed, we realized that we all can support each other and help each other in. In so many ways, and it's really been an incredible journey working with Jackie. And we're just at the beginning of the, of the journey and we're, we're gonna continue this and keep building and keep having some really exciting conversations and, and doing, doing work together. So we're We're excited.

Sylvia:

Hoby and Jackie I will say that I'm thrilled to have y'all on and I love me some wines and some liqueur, so it'll be especially fun to chat with y'all. I think it's so interesting, Jackie, that you talked about, even though we all have challenges recognizing our privileges as well, and we, we actually talked about that on our last podcast, which I hope everyone will check out, but Hoby tell us more about your journey with a real specific emphasis on the blindness part of that, because, so, you know, our listeners join us and each one of us have such a unique journey as people who are blind. And so let's hear about yours, your life journey.

Hoby:

You know, mine is, is the way it is because my parents, my parents are two truly amazing role models and they did a lot of wonderful things for me and my sighted brother. But I'll focus on two of them here. The first is they taught us to have extremely high expectations of ourselves, and they wanted us to have high expectations of them in return. So having a parent say, Hey, you need to get up and clean your room. You know you need to do your chores. We may have had different chores than one another, my brother and me, but we, we had the same, we were held to the same high standards. And the second thing they did for us is they told us anytime we, you know, we, we wanted a reminder or anytime they thought of it, that our lives were our lives to live and we needed to take responsibility for ourselves in everything that we do. So I knew that no one was gonna do it for me and my love appreciation for the food industry actually began when I was young, when I was in my parents' kitchen before I was a teenager. I think my first birthday gift I can remember I was 10 years old and they, well, maybe eight years old. And, and the gift was a 42 quart soup stockpot. And my, one of my jobs was to make large pots of soup that my parents would freeze. In small aquas and, and take to work as, as part of their lunch. When I was working in the kitchen, I didn't realize that I was learning at such a young age how flavors mixed together and how when you put onions and carrots and celery together in a Mirepoix, in a soup, The flavors of all three are necessary to give that quality of, of, of sweetness and savory. When you add mushrooms to something, the earthiness that comes out, what split peas do, what a little tiny bit of masa does to chili. I learned how to blend flavors and how flavors work together. And I think I was nine years old when I added Parmesan cheese rind to minestrone soup for the first time and realized that there's no better way to add that true Italian rusticness to minestrone But for adding the, the rind of Parmesan cheese and letting it soften in the soup. And then of course you take it out when you're When you're through cooking, but it adds so much flavor. The point is here, I learned that I experienced art through the way that I taste and smell the world and the way that I taste and smell food. Growing up in Sonoma County, California, which is in wine country. My parents were never involved in the wine industry, per se. They were home wine makers before I was born. They lived in the area and you know, I, I love the fact that grapes were basically being grown in my backyard and shipped around the world as wine. And something as humble as a grape could be transformed into something as brilliantly complex as a glass of wine. That's where I fell in love with chemistry and with understanding how atoms and atoms fit together to form molecules and how those molecules fit together to form flavor. And I didn't think I wanted to be a, a flavor scientist and use my chemistry in the kitchen, so to speak. I thought I wanted to teach chemistry. It was interesting because when I was in high school, in honors chemistry, I had a, a wonderful instructor who would, she was so twofold, you know, in one sense, she would motivate all of the class publicly that chemistry is what we eat, it's what we drink, we live it, we walk it, it's everything that we interact with. The physicists, no doubt argued with her, but that's what she thought and we adopted it. So I would, you know, and she would say, Don't think of chemistry as a prerequisite that you can't, you know, that you, it's just this boring class you have to get through, think of chemistry as more exciting than that and, and think about studying chemistry over time. And I took her to heart and said, This is really exciting. I love chemistry. I'm kind of have a natural way of thinking about it and I would love to continue studying it long in the future. And I went to her and I said, Hey, I wanna, I wanna study chemistry. And she said to me, Oh, Hoby, you know, I, I think it's great that. You know, tenacious and excited about this, but you're, you can't see. And, and I think it's gonna be too impractical for you. And I thought about it and I thought, and I said, There's gotta be a way that I can convince this instructor that chemistry does make sense for me. And I remember it to this day. I approached her, it was the second week of the second semester. It was a cold January morning. I went into her classroom before any other students were there about 7:30 in the morningcause I wanted to get some alone time with her. And I was in her honors chemistry class at this point, walked in and I said, You know, I understand that you think chemistry is not very practical for a blind person to study, but I gotta tell you, nobody can see atoms. And therefore chemistry is a cerebral science. And she was from that point forward 100% an ally. She said, You know what? You're right. We can't see atoms. We, we can't see this stuff. This is all stuff that's in our mind. And it is something we think about. So one thing led to another, I thought I wanted to teach freshman chemistry. In college, I wanted to get students excited about something that they thought was totally boring and just a prerequisite at 8:00 AM on a Monday morning after a long weekend of partying. And I had the opportunity and the honor of teaching several chemistry courses while I was in graduate school. And what I realized, Is that I love teaching and I love the students, but I thought about chemistry and I could explain it to them with a PowerPoint the way that I thought about it, which is in words, but my students didn't like to speak chemistry. They wanted video animations and pictures and all these things, and ultimately, while, studying chemistry in graduate school, I, I got excited about the food and beverage industry through a program I founded called Tasting in the Dark, which is a truly blindfolded experience that started in the wine industry and now is used for all sorts of foods and beverages. That's what got me into the, the fields of sensory design, which is designing products and food and beverage products, but also products in the tech industry outside food and beverage. That need a little sense of, of non-visual design. So much of, of the design work that people do is visual is sighted, and they don't think about what does it feel like, what does the packaging feel like, what does the product smell like, You know, all these things. But food and beverage is really my, my bread and butter and meeting Jackie and, and stepping into the distillery and really rethinking Sorel, which an amazing beverage and a very complex beverage because we needed to maintain visual clarity at, while at the same time tasting delicious. And we use a lot of natural ingredients in Sorel. We literally use botanicals that we brew into a tea. So there's so much that goes into making that beverage. Jackie did all the hard work to figure out how to make the beverage shelf stable. But then when we try to scale it up and make a lot of it at once, there's so many things that have to be considered. And I was able to pair my love for chemistry with my love for people and my love for an amazing story. And that's why I'm just so beyond honored and excited to be a small part of, of Jackie's great team as we, as we build out this product and you know, work together on this and, and continue building. And I'm just, I'm just so excited to just be. Hopefully, hopefully enjoyable person and, and someone who loves life, who kind of happens to be blind. That's how I view it.

Sylvia:

Hoby, that is just fascinating. I mean, we're, we're also getting a little cooking lesson here, but I have to tell you y'all, y'all started off talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and as you were talking about making that soup, you do you know that all of these. Analogies related to diversity were just flowing through my mind about how the combination of all of those things are, All of us makes beautiful things. And so how fascinating. And, and just interesting. Thank you.

Hoby:

That's such an interesting take on that, that soup and cooking diversity. And, you know, I want to, I want to just riff on that for a minute. I don't mean to over overstay my welcome here, but one of the things that I'll just share with you, Sorel is a blend of five botanicals. Mm-hmm. and each of those botanicals on its own is, and, and Jackie, I think you'd agree with me here, kind of underwhelming when you drink a tea of any one of the botanicals at the ratio that we use them in. They taste fine. They taste kind of one dimensional like that one botanical. But my goodness, when we blend these five things together in Sorel, five parts together, create a whole that is so much bigger than either of the parts could be on its own. They become a symphony of flavor that is nothing short of beautiful. They become, I mean, you blend five weird, unique botanicals together and you get like 500 different aromas, quite literally, and flavors and textures that pop out. But when you taste the botanicals by themselves, they're, they're kinda one dimensional. And this is the story, Jackie, I don't know if you know this yet, but this is a story that I use when I talk about diversity is, When we blend all types of people and all types of flavors, we get something that is so much bigger than any one of us in a closed minded and encapsulated atmosphere.

Jackie:

I would agree with that entirely. And I'll, I'm also gonna speak very briefly here to the immense amount of modesty that Hoby is displaying. I did, I did perfect the shelf simple version of Sorel in my kitchen. But I am by no means a food scientist. I'm just nerdy and persistent. It took me 624 tries in my kitchen to get a shelf stable version. But what Hoby has done with the actual production version, the recipe that we have been bottling since 2012. What he's done in the last nine months is remarkable. He has, through his knowledge of organic chemistry and his heightened level of senses, not only made the product easier to make and more scalable, but taste better and be less expensive. Because he actually understands the science of, of what we are doing. It's really interesting for me because I know this is a beverage, that's been around for at least 500 years, but no one's ever looked at it on a molecular level and gone, What the hell is going on here when we make this? Hoby has, I believe, very quickly become one of the country's foremost experts on hibiscus. Which is notoriously difficult to work with, but the strides we've made and continue to make in our production process is what actually lets us grow at an incredible rate.

Hoby:

Thank you, Jackie. Well, you're an, an incredibly modest guy too. Jackie's done a ton of work and just made this industry come to life and, and un allowed people all around the, the industry that we're both blessed to be a part of understand that, you know, you don't have to be a white male to own Spirit's brand or own a liqueur brand. You can be anyone and you can have a team around you that's made up of a wide variety of, of diverse populations. And we, I think, I don't know Jackie, but I think we kind of solve problems better because we all come from different backgrounds.

Jackie:

I, I, again, I agree with you a hundred percent, but you know, there, there's, there's a joke in here that, that is relevant. Hoby convinced his professor to take his love of chemistry seriously, because as in his own words, you can't see atoms, but I, the joke I've heard Hoby tell in the distillery is he can see flavor. And I believe him. I believe that when Hoby tastes something, he's experiencing something in a whole way that I don't actually have the, the capacity to perceive. So I'm always going to def defer to both his expertise as a chemist and his expertise as a, someone with a, an advanced pallet to see what helps me make the product better because he's doing things that I, I absolutely could not do.

Sylvia:

I heard one other big nugget that I just wanna point out, so the diversity of the team working together, but I also heard persistence. And Jackie, I heard you say that you tried something over 600 times until you got it right. And that persistence part is important. And, and, and sometimes when we're, when we're developing teams and developing whatever we're developing, You know, using that, the strengths of everyone, but the persistence in that. And so just wanted to point that out. And I'm gonna throw to Nasreen, cuz I know she's got a question

Nasreen:

Yeah. First of all, this is an remarkable and incredible story guys. I love the insights Hoby, that you provided. I just love how you, your determination, your tenacity, how you were able to put all that together and convince you know, your teacher that was a. Sort of observation that you made for her and Sylvia's absolutely right. It's about perception and changing perceptions and I love that. And Jackie, you know, it's fantastic how you are understanding how Hoby is tapping into his senses. Cause sometimes when you have one sense that is not working, the sharpest, all the other senses do make up for or come together to help elevate and balance out all your senses. But Jackie, I wanna turn my attention to you for a minute and I wanna ask you, Can you share some of your background and how you got into the distillery business?

Jackie:

So I, unlike Dr. Wedler, am unlettered I was someone who enjoyed drinking a beverage from my heritage. My grandparents came from the Caribbean and my grandfather died in Merrick, came from Barbados, and he was a trained chef. He taught my mom, and my mom taught me. So I grew up with a version of a drink called Sorl. In my kitchen from the time I was a small child, I made a version as an adult for friends and family at parties and barbecues and didn't think twice about it. And then 12 years ago, I had a cancer scare. My doctor found a tumor inside my spine the size of a golf ball, and he said, You're probably going to die. And if you live, you might be paralyzed. You should organize your paperwork. Short version is I lived but it will adjust your perspective permanently. I had a chance to think about what was important to me in life. I had 25 years invested in corporate America, but what I really want to do is day drink. I want to hang out with cool ass people in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. I wanna talk shit over good food and booze, and I wanted to monetize it when I couldn't think who was going to pay me to enjoy that lifestyle. I launched my liquor brand and I didn't know at the time, I did not know when I got my license to make liquor in 2012 that I was the only black person in the entire country that had a license to make liquor. I didn't know I was the first person post-prohibition. I have battled systemic impediments. And I think it's important to recognize that the, the obstacles are systemic because systems are created and maintained by people, which means people at any point can decide to change them if they're so inclined. I spent many years in hospitality teaching and writing about systemic oppress. And for many years I taught a seminar called How to Build a Longer Table with the idea that if the people who were already seated at the table just extended it a little bit more to folks like Hoby, to folks like myself, it would benefit everyone. And while that seminar was passionate and intelligent and full of sound and fury, it made very little difference. I started to teach a different seminar called How to Build Your Own Table, because it is easier to build it without discrimination from the ground up than to try to convince people who were already sitting at a table where discrimination is built into the fabric of how they work to change. So I love the fact that I get to build a table that is exactly what we talked about in our seminars for years. We have people of diverse backgrounds of all kinds, and we are trying to really put, show the world that everything's better when you're less prejudiced.

Nasreen:

Absolutely. I love that. Build Your Own Table, Jackie. Breaking down the systemic barriers and being more open minded, and I think both of you today have kind of shared, shared values and experiences of your own systemic barriers that you've had to conquer. And so I really appreciate you sharing that. Thank you so much. Sylvia.

Sylvia:

I think we would all agree. We wanna pull up to that table and sit with y'all a little while. So, And, and I want a glass of Sorel to sip on wall. Yeah, right. Let's, let's do it. Hoby give us a little crash course in what is sensory literacy? This is just so, that's such a fascinating conversation As a person who loves to cook and make food and, and just all of that, what is sensory literacy?

Hoby:

I wanna tell you a story if I may, many years ago. I was in, near my hometown, in my home county of Sonoma County near my hometown of Petaluma, California. Let me tell you a little bit about Petaluma. It's a, a wonderful place. I, I'm biased of course, because I grew up there. It's about 20 miles. Its 18 miles as the crow flies from the coast. From the Pacific Coast. It's about 45 miles directly north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And we have very oftentimes, very foggy mornings and sunny afternoons, and the fog brings with it a layer of moisture by virtue of being fog. And we have a lot of agriculture and a lot of pastures that raise livestock. We also grow a lot of grapes and have a lot of crops in the area, but one of things that's so special is the melting pot and frankly, the diversity of aroma in Petaluma. So I was with a group of friends after high school, bunch of, bunch of friends from, from my up, my childhood, and we drove up on a hill called Wilson Hill at the very southern end of Sonoma County, about five miles outside of Petaluma. And we parked and got out of the. When we stood on Beautiful Grass, it was early spring, I think it was maybe, I don't know, March 20 something. It was, it was the very end of March. We stood there. The grass beneath our feet felt cool. I even took my shoes off to to feel how it really felt under my feet. It was wet. It was bordering on cold. The ground gave a little bit. You could feel it give as it's soft from the recent rains that fell on the late winter rains that fell on the soil. The fog was thick in the morning and you could feel it on your face. This viscosity of fog, the thickness of air mixed with water and I thought about what I was experiencing, you could hear the birds chirping in the distance. Cows mooing in pastures several hundred feet away, the smells of bayit trees, redwoods, and cow manure, mingled with fresh cut grass and herbaceous notes and twines of air from the coast to create an aromatic symphony that was so diverse. And nothing short of beautiful. My friends stood on that hill with me and distracted me by talking about what they saw, describing what the color green looked like to them. And to be frank, I didn't care what the color green looked like at the time. I was so engrossed in the non-visual experience that I was having that the color didn't matter to me and we got back in the car. And people were still describing, Oh, I could look down off the hill and see the San Francisco or the San Pablo Bay. I could see cows and sheep running in pastures on farms in the distance. Oh, Hoby, let me describe to you what a live oak looks like. And I let them describe these things to me. And I said, Can I describe my experience? And I told them what I just told you, and they were struck. They were silent. I said, What's wrong? Why are you guys silent? They said, That's weird. That's crazy. Like you took in all that information from that area. We were so focused on our eyesight that we didn't notice any of that. And what my message here is if you have eyesight, which people who have used to obtain 85 to 90% of the information from their surroundings, but all means use your eyesight. But don't forget about those other senses and don't use your eyesight so much that it distracts your other senses from perceiving the world. I'm sensory literacy in short is a way of using all five of our senses to take in our surroundings, to take in the world around us, and then use our mind to think about what we take in and, and how we can build on those senses. And, and let yourself live a richer life based on what those experiences bring in. And this is not just something that we blind people can do. My friends, this is something everyone can do if you allow your mind to focus on your surroundings as you, as you go about your, your life and your your daily activities. I'm staying right now with a dear friend on a beautiful lake in Tennessee. He was generous enough to, to share his property with us, and he and I sat down on the dock a few days. Just listening around sunrise and he truly gets, He's a sighted guy who truly gets sensory literacy and understands how we can take in so much information beyond our eyesight and kind of explain to me what he saw and then related it. To how we might experience it without eyesight, and finding friends like this and people you can learn from is such an important thing. Who can also learn from you and build an experience around taking in everything there is to take in from the smells, to the sounds, to the textures, to the visuals that you might have. They're all valuable and that is my, perhaps feeble way of describing sensory literacy. I hope that's suffices.

Sylvia:

Hoby. I had an epiphany moment while you were talking. In all honesty, I think oftentimes as people who are blind, we think of what we're missing, and you just put that in such great context. Context of we're not missing, we actually are probably experiencing much more than someone who's just focused on what they're seeing, so thank you for that.

Hoby:

You're so welcome. And our, our, our apparent lack of eyesight and lack of taking in information in the world is just apparent. It's not actual. And when we look at other groups, not just us, and how much, maybe people who are nonverbal, maybe people who are in wheelchairs, what are they taking in from the world that we're not? By just steamrolling over the ground and walking wherever we need to go. Jackie and I have a friend in common, Yannick Benjamin, who just earned his first Michelin star for his restaurant called, Contento in the har in up up the northern part of Manhattan in New York. And Yannick is in a wheelchair. Yannick and I were talking actually when we happened to be together in Verona, Italy, this April. About our life experiences and we realized how much we each took in that was different than the other. And how kinda complimentary that was.

Nasreen:

And that's a good point, Hoby, because everyone's shared experiences or everyone's shared viewpoint is very different. The perceptions are different. No two people can see or perceive the same way. Jackie,

Jackie:

Yes,

Nasreen:

I was gonna ask you. Winning the most awarded liquor of 2022. Sounds very exciting. Can you tell us how winning this award made you feel? And what's next for Sorel? And I need ask, what does Sorel mean? Where did you come up with that?

Jackie:

So before I get into the questions, I'm gonna share an experience Hoby and I had in the distillery last week. Sure. One of the key elements of Sorel is visual. It is a bright magenta garnet color, which is a challenge that we face in the distillery to maintain that color. Over the course of time. Hoby and I were in the distillery last week going with samples, and I mentioned. One of the samples was more of. Rust brown than an actual bright bright garnet. And he asked me to explain it. And so I asked permission to hold his hand, and I held his hand firmly for a couple of moments and let my touch warm his skin. This is brown. I said, It's warm, it's comforting. Then I took the same hand and I took my knuckles and rubbed against his forearm for three or four seconds. You could see he could feel the irritation. This is, This is Garnet. This is a bright red, and this is part of how I'm trying to work on my ableism. I'm trying to, See and express things in a way that aren't limited to sight. And I appreciate Hoby's patience with me as we go through this.

Hoby:

Jackie, that was, that was an incredible moment because nobody has ever described color that way. And it finally made sense. It finally made sense that Brown was sort of, that, that feeling of pressure that we all like, that's kind of just light pressure. Comforting and warm. And then Garnet, is that sort of really, really vibrant. It's like almost neon in a way. It's like, like a high pitch sound, you know? I got that from you. Well, and I need to say one other thing about Jackie, and this just shows his thoughtfulness and, and considerate nature. Let me, when we started talking about working together, I said, I need to taste what, what's currently happening with Sorel hadn't tasted it yet. He sent me a bottle of Sorel with a card, a thick card, stock card, much like Braille paper, which he took a tack and looked online at the braille code and literally brailed me a note that I could read fluently. And we got on our first call to taste the product together. And he says to me, how'd you like my handwriting? No, anyone sighted or blind who's done that for me, and that just expresses who Jackie is to me and, and to so many of us. I,

Jackie:

I, I just, I just wanna say that writing in braille is really hard. It took, it took many, many tries to get it right, but if you're not willing to make the effort, then you have to really ask yourself why.

Nasreen:

But Jackie, Yeah. Tell us a little bit more about your award.

Jackie:

I will tell you that we did win just a slew of awards for Sorel this year. But I will say that again, there's privilege built into that. We entered a bunch of contests. All of the contests cost money. For the first time in a 10 year career doing this, I can actually afford to enter the contests. Now, entering the contest begin to afford to enter them does not guarantee an award, but there's definitely a level of class privilege built in to being able to. 35 different contests verifies RI is delicious because we could afford to enter. I didn't have that ability before. That said, what's really validating? It's great for my distributors, it's great for consumers to see that there's, there's confidence in the beverage, but what's really validating is when people who grew up with this beverage who, whose grandmothers made it in their kitchen, when they taste it and go, This tastes like home. That is incredibly validating. It's, it is it is audacious To take a beverage from a community, from a, a group of people and say, I'm going to present a representation of this to the world. There's a lot of pressure to make sure that it is not just the right story, but the right taste. So yes, I am very, very grateful for the awards and I believe it will help us actually really prove to the consumers. The product is just one of the best on the market, but more than that, I'm grateful for the opportunity to tell this story and the validation that comes from the people who are familiar with the beverage.

Nasreen:

What does the company Sorel stand for?

Jackie:

Oh, this is this, this is a good question. If you go to the Caribbean and you try, you have this beverage, they call it Sorrell, S O R R E L. It's based on the sorrel hibiscus flower. I have a speech impediment. I can't pronounce the letter R. So for me, trying to say sorrel is like trying to say rural or terror. It's an awful word, but I had eight years of enunciation class in public school. Other kids got to go play. I saw a speech pathologist, and here's one of the things that I learned. Words that end in a down sound are sad. Sorrel is a sad word. Sorel is happy and I can pronounce it so it's literally called Sorel so I don't sound like a dumb ass happy than to be sad. Thank you, Thank you guys. Steph.

Steph:

You know what? I don't want this conversation to end. You're demonstrating to the world what is possible. Once we open our minds and we are willing to take the chance to be more accepting, we can do anything. So with that, I'm going to ask how can our listeners connect with the two of you?

Hoby:

I think we're both widely available online. My website is hobywedler.com. I am Hoby Wedler at all the, all the social media channels as so reach out on the website, reach out on on social media. Or just email me. I'm hoby@hobywedler.com, H O B Y H O B Y W E D L E R.com. And the most important thing to me is that every one of you listeners has an open and an abundant mindset. And the idea. That nothing should stop you from doing what you wanna do. And no, I want nobody to be a stranger. If there's anything I can do for anyone, reach out, because I'm always up for a conversation.

Jackie:

Don't you love listening, Hoby? I mean, couldn't you just listen to him all all day? You can find me at sorelofficial.com. It's also Sorel Official on social media, but if you're looking for me personally, Jackie Summers is who I am. I'm easy to find. The IG is theliquortarian. L I Q U O R T A R I A N. It's my mom's word cuz she didn't like calling her kids alcoholics.

Sylvia:

Where can we find this product?

Hoby:

That's a good question.

Jackie:

It's in about 20 states right now, but if it's not in your state yet, reservebard.com delivers almost everywhere in the, in the continental united States.

Sylvia:

Cause I'm feeling like I gotta go get some, Don't y'all

Jackie:

We'll place examples of, of Dr. Dr. Wedler's exemplary work if you do

Hoby:

Yes, and, and Jackie's exemplary, exemplary work. It's just fun.

Steph:

Thank you so much, gentlemen.

Nasreen:

Thank you for listening to The Beauty On Air podcast with your host, Stephanie McCoy, Nore Budda, Sylvia Perez. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast platform, and to watch out for our next monthly episode.

Welcome
Hoby & Jackie How They Met
Hoby's Blindness Journey
Jackie Shares Hoby's Contributions
Jackie's Background & Build Your Own Table
Hoby's Crash Course On Sensory Literacy
Jackie On Sorel's 2022 Awards
A Little History On Sorel
Connecting With Hoby & Jackie