Officials with Shelbyville-based Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey have announced the formation of the $50 million Uncle Nearest Venture Fund.
According to a release, the fund was created to invest in rapidly growing, minority-founded and -owned spirit brands and comes on the 100th anniversary of the destruction of the so-called Black Wall Street in Tulsa. The fund has chosen its first two investments of $2 million apiece: London-based Equiano, the world's first Afro-Caribbean rum founded by Ian Burrell and Aaisha Dadral; and Jack From Brooklyn Inc., the first-known Black-owned distillery in America post-Prohibition and the maker of Sorel Liqueur.
Jackie Summers founded Sorel in 2012. Through the investment from the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, Sorel Liqueur will return to market this summer as an exclusive offering via ReserveBar.com and its Spirited Change Initiative.
Uncle Nearest is currently available in all 50 states and 12 countries, and is sold in more than 25,000 stores, bars, hotels and restaurants, and at its 270-acre distillery in Shelbyville, dubbed "Malt Disney World."
"On June 1, 1921, an entire community of wealthy and successful African Americans was wiped out in a matter of hours," Fawn Weaver, Uncle Nearest's founder and CEO, said in the release and referencing the Tulsa massacre. "Learning about that history broke my heart because we ... were lifting one another up and creating wealth within our own community and showing others how to do it for themselves. We cannot go back and undo the past, but I do believe we have full power over our future, and that recreating a Black Wall Street of sorts within the spirits industry is a great place to start."
Uncle Nearest Venture Fund is led by a board of directors that includes Keith Weaver, executive vice president of global public policy and external affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment; Lee Moulton, head of partnerships for Google; Carolyn Feinstein, former CMO for Dropbox; Mark McCallum, former chief brands officer for Brown-Forman; Kevin Asato, portfolio management for Republic National Distribution Company; and Minott Wessinger, founder of McKenzie River Corp.