Bourbon and Rye whiskeys are two of the best things to have ever been invented. Not just in the form of liquids, but in anything that has ever been created. As a huge bourbon and rye enthusiast I may be slightly biased, so just take my word for it. You'll soon see what I mean.
When you head to the liquor store, it can quickly become overwhelming once you walk over to the bourbon and rye area. This is the latest liquor to explode, it went from being considered just a drink of old men, to a highly sought after commodity. What has changed? To be honest, people are what changed. Getting over the idea of what whiskey is and actually giving it a chance, once they did, they realized how good it is. If anything, in blind taste tasting, older bourbons have outscored many of the top bourbons of recent years, so you're only receiving an idea of just how good it is.
Bourbons and ryes have many different variables, you may like one bourbon and hate another, that's common. There is a wide variety based off where they are stored, mashbills (percentages of ingredients used), etc... When you find one that you like, reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help point you in the right direction.
My collection of bourbons continues to grow monthly, which leads to more and more friends asking me for advice on which bourbon and/or ryes would be best for someone just getting started. The list below may be easier for some to get then others depending on the distribution of the different brands in your area.
1792 Small Batch Bourbon by Barton/1792 Distillery
By no means is this a comprehensive list of all the bourbons or ryes that I could mention, which are often enjoyed by beginners to the world of american based whiskey. I tried to do a couple things, with a couple of exceptions:
1) Lower Proof Choices. Sometimes higher proof bourbon or ryes are not handled well, since a lot of beginners have trouble getting past the little bit of burn. I'd rather you gain an appreciation for the complexity of these spirits before adding in lots of heat or spice into the equation.
2) Lower Cost Choices. Aside from Angel's Envy Bourbon ($50) or Whistlepig 10yr Rye ($70), I tried to keep the other choices between $20-$40. This will enable you to give whiskey a chance without too much of a financial investment.
Like I suggest to many people, try to find a friend that's already experienced with bourbon and ryes, this will allow you to be able to taste it without having to purchase a full bottle, especially if it turns out that choice isn't your thing. Another option would be to hit up a bar with a decent whiskey menu, this would also be an option in order to try a few of the choices listed above.