When I first started enjoying bourbon I was younger and cut my teeth on Wild Turkey 8 year and 12 year old bourbon. Of course looking back now and knowing that I mixed those with Coke makes me cringe. Later in life I kept a bottle in the pantry to sip on every so often and pretty much stuck with Wild Turkey products because that's all I knew. I always thought of bourbon as one dimensional; bourbon is bourbon.
Little did I know that variances in bourbon are as diverse as those found in wine. Later in life I began to venture outside the Wild Turkey product line and found a wide open array of products that varied greatly. Once I had my eyes and palate open to different product lines I began to explore different bourbons that varied in age, proof and mashbill. If you simply drink Jim Beam or Jack Daniels (which is not bourbon....more on that later) you may want to expand your horizon and look beyond the mass produced products. There's nothing wrong with Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, but as I stated above, the differences are noticeable when you begin to experiment with other offerings.
For friends that express an interest in bourbon, I typically suggest they start with something low proof and lighter in expression. There are two types of bourbon; those with a rye mashbill and those with a wheat mashbill. A rye recipe will give the bourbon a spice and kick that makes some folks wince. A wheat recipe will give the bourbon a smoother, less "spirited" profile. So, I suggest Makers Mark for new drinkers. It's a wheated bourbon at 90 proof and if that's still too high, you can pour it over ice or cut it with a splash of water.
For friends who are scotch drinkers, I bypass the Makers Mark suggestion and point them towards a rye bourbon or rye whiskey. A rye bourbon would be something like Old Grand Dad. A rye whiskey would be something like Baby Saz. I do this because they typically find the wheated bourbons to be uneventful and if you're a Scotch drinker, you'd understand.
So, if you are new to bourbon, old to bourbon and have any questions, please feel free to post and ask.