When most people think of Kentucky, one of the first things that comes to mind is the world-famous Kentucky Derby. This is understandable. After all, it’s one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.

However, the co-called Bluegrass State has more claims to fame than just horse racing. From a unique genre of Appalachian music to beloved spirits and a particularly delicious dessert, here are three things Kentucky is known for other than the Kentucky Derby.

Bluegrass Music

Two people playing bluegrass music
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Bluegrass is a genre of music that first developed in the late 1930s and early 1940s in southern Appalachia. It marries aspects of blues, jazz, dance music, and traditional Irish and Scottish music.

The music gets its name from the group Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, who are said to have pioneered this musical movement. The group’s leader, Bill Monroe, was originally from Rosine, Kentucky, and named his group after a type of grass that proliferates in the state.

Bluegrass music was initially popular in Appalachia, but its influence has spread far and wide. These days, it’s a worldwide phenomenon, but it all started in Kentucky.


Bourbon pouring out of a bottle into a glass with ice
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Did you know that bourbon is a type of whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon? The spirited spirit known as bourbon is a distinct type of whiskey that hails from Kentucky and remains most strongly associated with the area.

While distilling whiskey dates back centuries in Ireland and Scotland, the custom was brought over to the new world by early settlers.

The specific story of how bourbon evolved in Kentucky remains somewhat fuzzy. However, it’s generally accepted that credit goes to Elijah Craig, a Kentucky minister who was the first to age whiskey in oak casks. This gave the unique version of the drink its distinct darker color and distinguished it from “regular” whiskey.

To truly be considered bourbon, this spirit must meet certain standards. It must be made with a mix of at least 51% corn, it must be aged in charred oak containers, and it must be produced in the United States. So while bourbon can be produced in other areas of the U.S., it’s still got the strongest foothold in Kentucky. At this point, over 95% of all bourbon is still produced in Kentucky.


A slice of Derby Pie
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In spite of this pie’s name, it has no relation to the state’s most famous race. In fact, it’s become a famous icon of Kentucky all on its own. This heavenly dessert is sort of like a tricked-out pecan pie augmented with plenty of chocolate. It’s decadent, it’s delicious, and it’s famous in Kentucky.

It all started in the 1950s when the Kern family, owners of the Melrose Inn of Prospect, Kentucky, created a dessert that made a real splash with customers.

The Kerns decided to come up with a name for their creation; according to lore, every family member is said to have put a potential name in the hat, and the one they chose read Derby Pie.

In 1969, they trademarked their recipe as Derby-Pie®. The trademark was exercised big time in the 1970s when several publications and establishments were sued for including the trademarked name. In most cases, the Kern family won!

Since then, the pie has had many imitators that have gone by a variety of other names including but not limited to Winner’s Pie, Race Day Pie, and even Triple Crown Pie and Pegasus Pie.

While Kentucky is internationally known for its most famous horse race, there’s a lot more going on in this friendly southern state. Its delicious culinary creations and influential cultural offerings put it on the map for more than just horses!