Accurate detection of certain chemical vapours is important, as these may be diagnostic for the presence of weapons, drugs of misuse or disease. In order to achieve this, chemical sensors could be deployed remotely. However, the readout from such sensors is a multivariate pattern, and this needs to be interpreted robustly using powerful supervised learning methods. Therefore, in this study, we compared the classification accuracy of four pattern recognition algorithms which include linear discriminant analysis (LDA), partial least squares-discriminant analysis (PLS-DA), random forests (RF) and support vector machines (SVM) which employed four different kernels. For this purpose, we have used electronic nose (e-nose) sensor data (Wedge et al., Sensors Actuators B Chem 143:365-372, 2009). In order to allow direct comparison between our four different algorithms, we employed two model validation procedures based on either 10-fold cross-validation or bootstrapping. The results show that LDA (91.56 % accuracy) and SVM with a polynomial kernel (91.66 % accuracy) were very effective at analysing these e-nose data. These two models gave superior prediction accuracy, sensitivity and specificity in comparison to the other techniques employed. With respect to the e-nose sensor data studied here, our findings recommend that SVM with a polynomial kernel should be favoured as a classification method over the other statistical models that we assessed. SVM with non-linear kernels have the advantage that they can be used for classifying non-linear as well as linear mapping from analytical data space to multi-group classifications and would thus be a suitable algorithm for the analysis of most e-nose sensor data.