The energy distribution of a high brightness rubidium ion beam, which is intended to be used as the source for a focused ion beam instrument, is measured with a retarding field analyzer. The ions are created from a laser-cooled and compressed atomic beam by two-step photoionization in which the ionization laser power is enhanced in a build-up cavity. Particle tracing simulations are performed to ensure the analyzer is able to resolve the distribution. The lowest achieved full width 50% energy spread is (0.205 ± 0.006) eV, which is measured at a beam current of 9 pA. The energy spread originates from the variation in the ionization position of the ions which are created inside an extraction electric field. This extraction field is essential to limit disorder-induced heating which can decrease the ion beam brightness. The ionization position distribution is limited by a tightly focused excitation laser beam. Energy distributions are measured for various ionization and excitation laser intensities and compared with calculations based on numerical solutions of the optical Bloch equations including ionization. A good agreement is found between measurements and calculations.