I'm also somewhat of a whiskey beginner, but have been drinking and exploring for a couple of years. My advice is:
- Don't go spending a bunch of money based on recommendations when you don't know yet what you like.
- No shame in water or ice. I always put in at least a dash of water (they say it helps open it up).
- I like to make and drink Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours, but you can't really judge the whiskey in those. I usually do that when I am bored with my current bottle and want to finish it so I can buy another.
- If you find something you like, be sure to learn who is the producer (not just the brand) as they will often have many different bottles with the same mash bill and similar taste.
- Buffalo Trace is respectable but is the bottom shelf of anything I would buy to drink neat, but that depends a bit on how often you drink it and how much you want to spend. Some other suggestions would be 1792, Longbranch, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Larceny.