An Educated Nose

Meet the woman behind all those organic scents at <br />Intelligent Nutrients

“Horst already had names in mind for the new aromatics, which really helps because then I know what the product is supposed to do. ‘Nurture,’ for instance, has lots of lavenders: it promotes healing, calms rashes, all that kind of stuff.”

Trish Ronning has been a perfumer/aroma specialist since 1986, when she graduated with a food-science degree from the University of Minnesota and started working at the newly founded Aveda. She later received a master’s degree from the U in holistic healing, and now works with Intelligent Nutrients (and Aveda) founder Horst Rechelbacher, formulating the scents for its hair care, skin care, and new multifunctional aromatics lines. Here, Ronning gives her insight into the art of smelling.

In the beginning at Aveda, it was hard because perfume companies that used synthetics thought we were so silly. You can make stuff with essential oils? Horst has always had amazing vision; he’s always 20 years ahead. Aveda became acceptable, then liked. It’s all about timing and trending: “green” is becoming a way of life.

We collaborate. Horst has an idea of what he wants: I like these notes together; can we add this to it? If you work with big perfume houses, you can’t do that as well. We can tweak things, change our minds. It’s nice to be able to make those movements back and forth.  

If you don’t like the smell of something, it won’t make you feel better. For instance, I work with kids at hospitals, and if we give kids lavender, they squish up their noses. But citrus reminds them of candy and makes them happy.

There are about 300 essential oils that are natural, but there are only about 100 that are organic. We only use organic. One type of rose we use is $10,000 a kilo. In contrast, orange can be $45 a kilo. If it’s not organic it can run about $10 a kilo. In contrast, there are at least 3,000 synthetic smells.

My favorite essential oils are ones that I know do great things for the skin. So I like carrot and everlasting, which isn’t nice smelling—it smells like lanolin—but it is great for the skin. I like neroli, too.

Intelligent Nutrients, 983 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-617-2000,

For more from Trish Ronning, read “Intelligent Scents.”