Unusually for a horizontal tasting like this, none of the beers leaped out as being different -- usually there's at least one outlier. Perhaps I should have chosen a saison from a non-Belgian brewery, but that would have involved planning. All were appropriately golden coloured and generally dry, with the differences being in how they mixed up the secondary fruit, spice and herb characteristics.
My least favourite was Saison de Dottignies which I found harshly dry, accentuated by the full-on carbonation. The only flavour complication is a kind of barky wood effect which I didn't enjoy much.
The most unusual of them was Urthel's Saisonnière which blends in a distinctly meaty aroma with surprisingly sweet herbal flavours. Notes of bubblegum even creep in during proceedings. Probably a long way from the saison purist's ideal, but I quite liked it for what it was.
Palest of the lot was Struise's Catso and I didn't think this was going to work to begin with as there's an unpleasant soapiness to the nose. Thankfully that more-or-less fades on tasting and instead there's an alluring blend of spicy perfume: jasmine and caraway both feature in my notes. I'm a big fan of Scandinavian aquavit and this has a lot of that sort of thing going on.
Top of the line for me, however, was Saison Voisin from Brasserie des Gèants in north-west Wallonia. It's the deep orange colour of a pale ale and has a fantastic spiky spicy aroma. The flavour is a lenticular delight, flipping effortlessly between thirst-quenching crispness and juicy fresh mandarin flesh. Interesting, refreshing and extremely easy to drink.
A couple of months ago I was a bit sniffy about non-Belgian saisons. If this random sample is any way representative I think such sniffiness may be at least a little justified.