Speaking from a 'beginners' standpoint, the best recommendation I have on hand is usually Jim Murray. I don't have time or (especially) money to sample 1200 whiskies a year, and I DO believe that you can rate the quality of whiskies against each other. So if Jim scores a whisky less than 90 I won't buy it, even if Tescos has it at £8 off. This way I get to try contrasting whiskies which I can be reasonably assured are of high quality.
I know where you're coming from, but I'll be the first to say that i've been badly burned by this game.
I bought my first half dozen bottles based purely on reviews (mainly from Michael Jackson's book - before I had Murray's). What I ended up with was:
Oban Distiller's Edition: yuck.
I discovered that everyone in the world loves highland Park 18 - apart from me.
Bowmore Darkest: perhaps was good, but I got the French whore perfume bottle
Old Pulteny is definitely not my style
It's amazing that I kept going: Lagavulin 16 made sure of that.
the guides are a great tool to get started, but spend your money at a bar first, before buying the bottle if you're concerned about costs. You'll find out what you like, what you're ambivalent towards and what you don't enjoy. Everyone's different and while we can all rate a whisky better or worse than another one, you might find that one that you like a lot might only rank in the high 70's or 80's in his book (Laphroaig 15 is my example: JM gives it a paltry 79 and I absolutely love it). While I really like Ardbeg Ten, i would rate it mid to high 80s, but no where near as high as he does.
I think that these forums offer a really good source of information for many bottles.
Also, the Malt Maniacs site's Whisky Monitor is a great resource as well, as common whiskies are usually reviewed by many contributors which helps round out the numbers.
Good luck and enjoy!