The composition of the volatiles of banana fruit from various cultivars grown on Madeira Island has been determined. Using GC-MS, the volatiles were shown to be complex mixtures of several classes of components, mainly esters, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and acids. The average contents of the total volatiles from cultivars “Dwarf Cavendish”, “Giant Cavendish”, “Robusta” and “Williams” were 93.0, 116.5, 157.3 and 157.0 mg/kg, respectively. The ester and alcoholic fractions appear to play a decisive role in the organoleptic characteristics of banana fruit, presenting a substantial content ranging from 57.2 to 89.8 mg/kg and 19.0 to 47.7 mg/kg, respectively, in all cultivars from Madeira Island studied. 3-Methyl butyl butanoate ester was the major constituent. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.