Now the ground-breaking research of James Lind has helped inspire the creation of the latest visitor attraction in his home city.
A new distillery and visitor centre bears his name following the global success of a lime-flavoured gin created in a tiny industrial unit in Leith’s docklands area.
Lind & Lime Gin is already exported to 24 countries overseas, less than four years after the original batch was launched by a new drinks company founded by two life-long friends from Edinburgh.
The move will allow production to expand to more than 200,000 bottles a year by the end of 2022.
The complex will have a shop and bar, where visitors will be able to fill and label their own mini-bottle of Lind & Lime and learn how to make the “perfect” gimlet, the cocktail made famous by author Raymond Chandler.
The new distillery has been created by Muckle Brig, the drinks company behind Scotland’s first "vertical distillery", Port of Leith, under construction next to the Ocean Terminal shopping complex.
Co-founder Ian Stirling said: “We launched Lind & Lime in November 2018 from a very small industrial unit along the road in Tower Street, but it feels as if we’re really growing up, getting into a bigger and more exciting space, where we can expand production, have a shop and offer tours.
“It took a good 18 months to create the gin and design our beautiful bottle, but for much of that time it was really just me sitting in Tower Street on my own.
"We thought we could give people something very distinctive and interesting. When we started production, it was just bananas. It went way better that we could've imagined. The space we had very quickly became too small.
“We’re now exporting to 24 countries and will be launching Lind & Lime in America later this year.
“We've been trying to keep up with demand since the day we launched. Now we should be able to do that.
“But the more exciting thing for us is being able to accommodate visitors, especially after two years of Covid.
“Paddy and I have been on so many tours as spirit fans, so were very keen to create something special, unique and fun. People will see how we make the gin and learn all about the company, but we’ll also let them onto the production equipment and do a bit of cocktail mixing at the bar.”
Born in 1716, James Lind was an apprentice surgeon when he left school and spent ten years at sea with the Naval Medical Service. His experiments to try to find a cure for scurvy were carried out on board HMS Salisbury in 1947, although it took more than 40 years for his findings to be fully accepted.
The distillery also honours another Leith pioneer, Lauchlan Rose. Born into a family of shipbuilders in 1829, the devoutly-religious merchant patented the method of preserving lime juice without adding alcohol in 1867, the same year it became mandatory for British ships to include it in their rations of sailors.
Mr Stirling said: “We know about so many famous Scottish inventors and scientists, what James Lind discovered was remarkable and a bit of an untold story and one that very much contributed to the whole concept behind Lind & Lime.
“Rose’s Lime Cordial is a massive global brand, which originated from here. It’s another story we wanted to tell in what we do.”
The gin distillery has transformed the former Sports Warehouse complex, a fixture on Coburg Street for more than 40 years.
Mr Stirling said: “I can remember coming here as a child to get stuff cricket bats and had to pick up my daughter's school uniform from here five years ago.
“We had been looking for quite a while for the right kind of industrial space and it couldn’t be more perfect. We were very fortunate to get our hands on it.
“We always wanted to stay in Leith because the provenance of our product is really important to us. We’re going to be distilling, bottling, labelling and packaging every bottle here.”
The Port of Leith Distillery has been the long-held dream of Mr Stirling and business partner Paddy Fletcher, two self-confessed “whisky geeks”.
Mr Stirling added: “We were working in London and really founded our company with the dream of making whisky in our home city.
“It took us five years to get interest from investors and the site that we're now building on. We started construction in 2019, then Covid almost immediately happened, we got back to construction again and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel with the distillery hopefully producing whisky later this year.
“We didn't set out to build a vertical distillery, but we did want to build a really modern landmark as we’re a new company bringing new ideas as to how to make whisky.
“We wanted a building to reflect that, but ended up with a really tiny site, so the only way to build was up. It’s going to be an incredible new landmark in the area, but also hopefully for Scotch whisky.”
The new home of Lind & Lime Gin, one of the main sponsors of this year's Edinburgh International Festival, has opened on the doorstep of one of its main venues, Leith Theatre.
Mr Stirling said: “I worked in the press office at the Assembly Rooms when I was 18. To be at the helm of a company which is now sponsoring the International Festival is quite extraordinary and hard to believe.
“Paddy and I both grew up working in the festivals and we’ve always been incredibly passionate about Edinburgh’s place as a cultural centre. Having a company that can support that is very exciting.”