I can get Maker's for just under $20 here. However, I've come to find wine and spirits are generally cheaper than in other places. Beer not so much.
What I get out of peaty scotch was iodine, but that could just be the Island scotch(s) tried.
Regarding "Entry level": which to me means no wild, odd or unique characteristics reserved for the discerning whiskey drinker's palate. I want to work myself up to being a connoisseur.
If I were going to prescribe an "entry" level approach to exploring whiskey...
-Start with the Canadians. Canadian whiskeys are generally lighter, milder, easy drinking blended whiskeys. Pendleton is sweet and caramelly, Crown is the standard for me. There are tons of options, but that's a good place to jump off.
-Don't buy bottom shelf bourbon. You might get lucky but spending $25-30 really improves your chances of getting something you'll enjoy. The Four Roses Yellow Label is the best bottle under $25 I've had at $23. I really like Woodford, Eagle Rare (spicy) and Blanton's. There is a lot of good bourbon out there.
-Scotch- Not my thing, at all. Repeat step 2.
-Talk to the store owners/employees if you get a sense that they know their stuff.